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V .5 

111. Hist. Serv. 


Prcl)i5t0ric America, 

The Mound Builders. 

Animal Effigies. 
The Cliff Dwellers. 

Ruined Cities. 
Myths and Symbols. 



Aboriginal Religions 




Member of the American Antiquarian Society ; New England Historical 

and Genealogical Society ; Corresponding Member of the American 

Oriental Society ; Nu7)iismatic Society, New York ; Victoria 

Institute; Society of Biblical ArchcEology ; also, Editor 

American Antiquarian and Oriental fournaL 



190 5. 

V. S 



lNi3reparing"a book on the Aboriginal Religions of America, 
the author has been impressed with the thoiisfht that very 
few have ever been written or published upon the subject. 
It is true that there are many books upon American Myth- 
thology, but there is a difference between mj^thology and 
religion, for mythology is occupied mostly with the fanci- 
ful tales of the people, and belongs mainly to the depart- 
ment of literature ; while the aboriginal religions relate to 
the Divinities about which the mj^ths are concerned. They 
are very comprehensive, and include not only the cere- 
monies, sacred dramas, and religious exercises, but also the 
symbols and external signs and objects of worship, thus 
making a double title necessary. 

It is true that the mytholog57^ of the American Aborigines 
is closely connected with religious ceremonies which are ex- 
planatory of them, and in this respect resemble the cere- 
monies which were common among the Egyptians and 
Greeks, especiall}'- the Eleusinian .mj^^steries. These mys- 
teries were so secret that their significance was unknown, 
except to the initiated, and yet the probabilitv is that the 
great tragedies of nature, which consist in the return of the 
seasons and the war of the elements, and the relation of the 
activities of the earth to the power of the heavenly bodies, 
were in reality quite similar to these sacred dramas practised 
by the natives of this continent. 

The Scandinavian mythology, which has become familiar 
to us through the volumes of the younger Edda, also illus- 
trates this point. It had to do with the powers of nature 
and the remarkable scenery of the Norseland, but wa» 
mingled with traditions and mj'ths which came from the 
far East. It represented the earliest system of religion 
which prevailed in Europe and in farther Asia, and 3'^et 
there was a remarkable difference between that m3'thology 
and the religion of the Norsemen, for the mythology is 

-i / 


purely literary, as is well known; but their religious rites 
and ceremonies came from paganism. 

This illustrates the difference between the present work 
and those various volumes which have been prepared on 
the native mythologies of America, for the object of the 
author has been to get at the actual religious beliefs from 
which the mythology sprang, and make these the chief 
objects of study. 

It should be said that great activity has appeared 
among the specialists in the work of collecting the myths, 
and witnessing and describing the religious ceremonies, and 
many volumes have been published by the various museums 
and societies, but these are so jDurely local in their char- 
acter, that they do not really assist us in comprehending 
the entire system as it prevailed on this continent, though 
they have served to perj^etuate the myths and ceremonies 
which are fast disappearing, and are likel}'^ soon to pass 
away altogether. 

The author would acknowledge his indebtedness to these 
various reports, and refer the readers to them for further 
information upon the subject which is at hand. It will be 
remembered, however, that there were many tribes and 
nations in Mexico, Central America and Peru who gave up 
their religious customs at the time of the conquest. Our 
acquaintance with the. Aboriginal Religions of this region 
is dependent upon the study of the symbols which have 
been preserved, and the sacred books or codices which 
are still in existence. 

The method of studying the religious S3'stems has been 
to take the native tribes as the}' are actually situated geo- 
graphically, and trace the relation between the myths and 
the divinities, which were worshiped in the locality, to their 
surroundings, without undertaking to trace their historical 
development, or even to show their resemblance to those 
found on other continents. There was a great variety of 
religious systems on this continent, each of which seems to 
have arisen in the very locality where they prevailed at the 
time of the Discovery, and some of them are prevailing at the 
present time. There is one peculiarity of all these systems: 
viz., there were no such religious founders, as have marked 
the systems which prevailed in the lands of the East; but 


• all owed their existence to natural causes, with the slight 
mixture of traditions which had reached them from some 
distant lands. 

The most remarkable fact which is brought out by this 
study, is that the aboriginal religions of America corre- 
spond to the earliest forms of religions which prevailed in 
the lands of the East. But the grades of progress which 
are manifest in them follow the geographical, instead of 
chronological lines. The lowest form, such as Demonism, 
found in the far North among the Eskimos, resembled that 
which was the earliest in the far East. Next to this was 
Totemism, which resembled that which prevailed among 
the wild and wandering tribes of Arabia. There was also 
a sj'Stem of Star-Worship and Sky-Worship which pre- 
vailed among the mountain tribes of the Interior, which 
resembled that existing in Central Asia during prehistoric 
times. The system of Sun-Worshij) which prevailed among 
the agricultural tribes of the Gulf States, closely resembl- 
ing that which existed in Egypt and Babylonia at the 
opening of history, and man}?- of the same customs were 

There was a system prevailing among the partially civil- 
ized tribes of the Southwest, very similar to that which 
existed among the Greeks. It consisted in the worship of 
Culture Heroes and Humanized Divinities, some of whom 
so resembled human beings, as to be taken for historical 
personages, or visitors from some foreign land. 

Hiawatha and Quetzalcoatl (the Fair God of Mexico) 
correspond to Buddha, the chief divinity of the Hindoos ; 
at the same time Tezcatlipoca, the War God of the Aztecs, 
corresponds in character to Loki of the Scandinavians. 
There were rulers among the Peruvians who were worship- 
ped as Children of the Sun, and had great power over the 
entire nation because of this superstition. In this respect 
they resembled the early kings of Egypt, Babylonia, and 
Greece. The dawn of civilization brought out their shadowy 
character, so that they were regarded as super-hufnan be- 

The same analogies may be recognized in the symbols 

-and mj^ths which prevailed on the two hemispheres. There 

were monsters of the deep which filled the imaginations of 


the Eskimos, just as there were dragons which haunted the- 
houses and tempJes of the Chinese. There were also, Bird 
Divinities which were regarded by the people of the North- 
west Coast as their protectors, just as there were among 
the tribes of Southern Africa. The same analogies can be 
traced also in the animal divinities, for there were many- 
animal forms which can be recognized among the art 
IDroducts of America, which resemble those found among 
the palaces of Babylon. They were wild animals, and yet 
they were regarded as protectors and were worshipped as 
sincerely as were the Winged Lions and Human Headed Bulls 
which stood in the palaces of Nineveh. 

The most striking analogy between the religious systems 
of America and those which existed in the far East, consists 
in the fact that there was a constant progress, and the con- 
ception of Divinity grew higher as civilization advanced, 
and, 3^et, strange to say, no such character ever appeared 
on the continent of America, as that which was embodied 
in the person of Jesus Clirist. In fact, it does not seem 
possible that the ordinary progress of society could have 
developed such a character, or even brought the conception 
to the human mind, except by the process of divine inspira- 



Races and Religions in America i 



The Serpent Symbol in America 53 

The Serpent Symbol in America— Continued 81 

Animal Worship and Sun Worship Compared ,113 

American Astrology or Sky Worship 145 

The Pyramid in America I59 

The Cross in America 185 

Phallic Worship and Fire Worship in America 209 

The Water Cult and the Deluge Myth 227 

Human Images and Winged Figures. 249. 

The Worship of the Rain God 281 



Ethnographic Religions and Ancestor Worship 297 

CHAPTER XIII.— Continued. 
Anthropomorphic and Mountain Divinities 3^5 

Commemorative Columns and Ancestor Worship 333 

Personal Divinities and Culture Heroes ^.. 362 

Culture Heroes and Deified Kings 3^9 


Personal Divinities and Nature Powers in America.. 421 



IFigure i — Pictographs 4 

2 — Pictographs 5 

3 — Pictographs 5 

4 — The Deer 8 

5 — The Crane 8 

6— The Turtle 9 

7— The Bear ' 9 

8— The Crane lo 

9— Dreams 10 

10 — Winged Serpent 13 

II— Ornamented Wall of Buried City in Honduras 14 

i2 — Fresco Figure from Mexico 15 

13 — Idols in Honduras 16 


IFigure i — Clan Totems Inscribed on Rocks 18 

2— Mythologic Totem from Arizona 27 

3— Mythologic Symbols of the Cliff-Dwellers 29 

4 — Clan Totems in the Effigies 3^ 

5— Totems of the Village Chief : 32 

14— Totem Posts from the Northwest Coast 39 

15 — The Thunder Bird 4o 

16— House Post 4' 

17 — Totem Post 4i 

18— Totem Board 42 

19 — Totem Post 42 

20— Feathered Doll 42 

21 — The Indian Medicine Man 44 

22 — Knife-Feathered Monster 5° 


Figure 23— Great Serpent in Adams County, Ohio 57 

24— Great Serpent in Adams County, Ohio 61 

25 — Serpent Effigy, Chillicothe, Ohio 63 

26 — Works on the Miami River, Ohio 64 

27 — Work in Colerain, Ohio 65 

31 — Serpent in Scotland 7' 

32— Bird Effigy 72 

33 — Bald Friar's Rock .... 74 

34— Serpent Heads from the Codices 75 

35— Serpent Tablet from Clark's Works, Ohio 76 

36— Serpent Pipe from New Mexico 77 

37 — Serpent and Mound-Builder 78 

38 — Plumed Serpent, Nicara>;ua 79 



Figure 46— Serpent Effigies near Ripon, Wis 83 

47 — Enclosure in Shape of Serpent . . 84 

48 — Rock in Shape of Serpent 90 

4Q — Serpent in Rock Inscriptions q6 

50 — Serpent on an Inscribed Rock in Colorado 96 

51 — Human Figures Enveloped with the Serpent Symbol .... 97 

52 — Vase with Serpent Ornament 98 

53 — Water Trough with Serpent Ornament 99 

54 — Aztec Calendar Stone .- 100 

55 — Serpent Ornament on Facade at Palenque loi 

56 — Serpent Ring at Chichen- Itza 102 

57 — The Calendar Stone 105 


Figure i— Thunder Bird of the Thlinkits 118 

2— The Shield of the Priesthood of the Bow 118 

3 — Circle with Symbols of Days 121 

4 — Sun Circle, with Symbols of Months 122 

5 — Tree and Cross as Symbols of the Sun 123 

6 — The Water Spider, with Symbols of the Sun on its Back. 127 

7 — Double Throne and Phallic Symbol 136 

8 — Winged Circle from Palenque 138 

9 — Figure of Death i ,',9 


Figure i— A Sun-Worshiper 141 

2 — Ornament Representing the Skv 142 

3 — Mound Builders' Map ol tlie Sky 147 

4 — Serpent of the Horizon 148 

5 — Arched Heavens Personifield 149 

6 — Symbol of the Sun — Spiral Path, Embossed Figure on the 

Ground 151 

7 — Mound with Circle and Ditch, Symbols of the Sum 151 

8 — Place of Sacrifice and Map of the Sky 152 

9 — Stonehenge Restored 1 53 

10 — Circle, Crescents and Square at Hopeton, shown g t^.e 

Symbolism of the Region 155 

II — Sky Divinities of the Zunis 156' 


Figure i — Pyramidal Mounds in Mississippi 160 

2 — Pyramid of Cholula 161 

3 — Governor's House at Uxma! 162 

4 — Pyramid at Palenque 166 

5— Pyramid of Teotihuacan 167 

6 — Truncated Mound from the Ohio Valley 169 

7— Mound at Cahokia 170 


CHAPTER VII.— Continued Page 

Figure ;8— Platforms and Pyramids at Copan 171 

9— Mound at St. Louis ' 72 

10 — Palace and Pyramid at Palcnq t- 176 

II— The Pyramid of Queniada I77 

12 — Temple of the Cross 182 

13— Temple of the Tablets 183 


Figures i, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6— Symbols of the Cios 186 

Figure 7— Zuni Head Dress 187 

8— Rock Inscriptions in Illinois ' 188 

9 — Rock Inscriptions in Missouri 188 

10— Cross in Pickaway County, Ohio 191 

XI— Bird Gorget 192 

12 — Spider Gorget 194 

13— Spider with Cross 195 

14 — Spider Gorget 195 

15 — Serpent Gorget 196 

16 — Cross on Shell Gorget 197 

17 — Cross on Copper Disk 197 

18— Suastika on Shell 198 

19 — Cross on Shell 198 

20 — Shape of the Crosses Found in Amir c n '. )ri am niation. 199 

21 and 32 — Symbol of the Cross in Hon e and Si:r ne 202 

23— Symbol for the Day 203 

24— Symbol for the Year 203 

25— Symbol for the Temple or Shrine 203 

26 — Cross of Teotihuacan 204 

27— Idol Pillar 206 

28— Cross of the Tablet 207 

29 — Symbolic Cross 208 


Figure i— Cup Stone at Cincinnati, Ohio 218 

2 — Fire Dancers 219 

3 — Navajo Sand Painting 221 

4 — Map Showing the Distribution of the Suastika 223 


Figure i — Water Snake of the Zunis 229 

2 — Horse Shoe Enclosures at Portsmouth 236 

3 — Effigy on the Scioto 237 

4 — Sun Circles 238 

5 — Terraced Mound Opposite Portsmouth 239 

6 — Corral for Prisoners 240 

7 — Enclosure and Spring near Worthington, Ohio 24 1 

8 — Legendary Rock 242 

9 — Aztec Migration Legend 243 



Figure i — Man Eagle aS*^' 

2 — The Maya Gods of Death, Life and Growth 252 

3 — The Tree of Life Transformed 254 

4 — The Tree of Life Transformed 255 

5 — Serpent and Human Face 258 

6— Pottery Idol 259 

7 — Idol from the West Indies 260 

8 — Haida Carving 261 

9 — Figures in a Cave in West Virginia 265 

10 — Fighting .Figures from the Mounds 268 

1 1 — Wasco and Yetl 269 

12 — Bird, Sun and Human Figure 271 

13 — Human Tree at Palenque 273. 

14 — Idol and Manitou Face at Uxmal 274 

15 — Cortesian Codex and Symbols of Cardinal Points 275 

16 — Idol with Symbols ot the Sky and Clouds 276 

17 — Image with Cloud Symbol 277 

18— Tlaloc, Rain God 278 

19 — Tlaloc, the Aztec Neptune 279 

20 — Quetzalcoatl, Air God of the Mayas 279 


Figure i — Medicine Bowl with Rain Symbol 282- 

2 — Rain and Sky Symbol 283 

3 — Zuni Rain and Cloud Symbol 283 

4 — Zuni Prayer-meal Bowl 284 

5 — Butterfly, Dragonfly and Bird Symbols 286 

6— Snake Kilt 293 

7 — Antelope Priest 295 


Figure i — Bear Idol from the Mounds 303 

. ' 2 — Bear Idol from the Mounds— Front View. .. .' 304 

3 — Carved Images from the West Indies 306 

4 — Idol from Gautemala 308 

5 — Idol from Gautemala 309 

6 — Chart of the " Mide Wigan," or Saci ed Lodge 320 

7 — Hastjelti, the Mountain Divinity 328 


Figure i — Circle of Standing Stones at Avebury 335 

2 — Haida Houses and Totem Posts 340 

3 — Haida Houses .... 34' 

4 — Silver Bracelet 342 

5 — Silver Bracelet - 343 

6 — Silver Bracelets 344 

7— Carved Slate Disk 348 

8— Haida Totem Posts at the World's Fair, Chicago 350 

9— Ctdar Box....: 354 

10— Slate Box 355- 

1 1— Lid of the Box 35^- 



Figure i— The Whale Killer 364 

2 — Image on a Rock, Easter Islands 367 

3— Serpent Pipe • 376 

4 and 5 — Serpent Tree and Face 377 

6 — Thunder Bird jgj 

7 — Heyoka as a Hunter 383 

8 — Lightning God ... 384 

9 — Human Tree 384 

10 and 1 1 — Gonktaghe " 385 


Figure I— Gigantic Head 403 

2 — Statue of Tlaloc 405 

3— Seated Figure at Palenque, representing the God of War. 407 

4 — Pontiff King at Copan 408 

5 — The Tizoc Stone 411 

6 — Cacique and Kneeling Figure 413 


Figure i— Different Culture Heroes 423 

2 — Cuculan, Chief God of the Mayas 429 

3 — The Cloud Boat of the Mayas 433 



Frontispiece— Transformation Ceremony and Dancers Dressed as 


Totem Tattoos, Northwest Coast.— Portrait Figure from Guatemala. i 
The Dakota Indians Imitating the Attitudes of the Buffaloes in Their 

Dance j g 

Mythologic and Animal Totems lo 

The Eagle Man— A Mythologic Totem 30 

Copper Eagle from the Etowah Mound 31 

Facsimile of Pictures on the Dresden Codex 38 

Carved Pipes from the Mounds ^e 

Zuni Water Vases. Ornamented with Animal Figures 47 

Zuni Fetiches .„ 

Serpent Gorgets from Tennessee 58 

Shell Gorgets from Tennrssee go 

Standing Stones in Dakota 87 

Serpent Effigy, Holmes' Survey go 

Offerings to Serpents iq5 

Mexican Goddess of Death log 

"Idol Pillar with Serpent Symbols i iq 

Shell Gorgets containing Sun Symbols. .-r. 117 

Carved Animal Symbols , ,„ 



The GodTlaloc 125 

Adoratorio with' Winged Globe 133 

Nature Power Personified 136 

Moon Worship Symbolized 1 37 

The Initiation of Warriors Among the Mandaiis 143 

Dramatization of the Deluge Myth and the Sky Divinities by the 

Mandans I44 

Prayer to the Rising Sun 208 

Atotarho, Culture Hero of the Iroquois 20Q 

Totemic Door Posts of the Stone Houses, Ocongo, Easter Islands. . . 301 

Chart of the Mide Song— Schoolcraft 324 

Mountain Divinities and Sand-Paintings of the Navajos 325 

Village and Cemetery on Prince of Wales Island 346 

Plumed Serpent Carved on Temple of Zochicalco 364 

Altars and Images from Copan 365 

Sugar Loaf Rock on Mackinac Island 373 

Portrait Idols on Easter Islands 388 

Female Statue from Copan 391 

Back of Female Statue 392 

Bearded King at Copan 397 

Buried Statue at Copan 398 

Turbaned King at Copan 409 

Dwarf Statue from Copan 410 

Air God Dressed as a King. 414 

Rain God Dressed as a Priest 415 

The Inner Tablet of the Temple of the Sun 417 

















The subject of comparative religion has been under discus- 
sion for many \'ears, and some of the strongest and best thinkers 
have written upon it well and forcibly. The field which has 
received the most attention and occupied the most important 
position has been the continent of Asia, though Arabia, Afric£, 
and the northern part of Europe have also been studied. 

There is, however, a field on the continent of America 
which has not been studied as closely as it deserves, for it car- 
ries us back to a stage of religious development which is more 
primitive than can be found elsewhere, and at the same time 
presents a series of stages which are quite as interesting as 
those found in Eastern countries. 

It is the purpose of the author to describe the different sys- 
tems as they are found on this continent, especially in regard 
to their geographical situation, and to compare them with those 
which existed in Oriental countries in the earliest time, and to 
point out the resemblances. The thought which is to be held 
in mind, is that in America we have a field in which religion 
passed through those stages which are known to have been the 
lowest, and at the same time had reached, a stage which was 
nearl)' or quite as high as any that has been found in the pagan 
or heathen nations of the Old World. This makes this conti- 
nent a remarkable field for the investigation into the subject of 
comparative religion, and especially among the lower races. 

I. The first point to which we shall call attention, is that 
the races and tribes which formerly had dwelt here, were not 
only isolated from other continents, but in a large degree 
from one another, but developed their religious systems in 
parallel lines. It is not claimed that there were any 
mountain barriers which separated the races according to belts 
of latitude and made them subject to such differences of 
climate, for the mountain chains all run in a north and south 
direction, while in the Eastern hemisphere they run in an east 
and west direction. Still it will be found that the races were 
so separated from one another that they deve oped different 
phases of society, different modes of government, different 
forms of religion, and to a great degree different languages. 
There were several causes of separation. In the first place, there 


were wide belts in which the climate and soil kept certain tribes 
hugging the sea coast, and others the forest belts and regions 
in the interior. 

The chain of the Great Lakes and the rivers ran east 
and west, and formed lines along which certain races clusteied; 
the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern sea drawing other tribes. 
To the west of the Rocky Mountains there were rivers and long 
valleys in which separate tribes were settled, each having its 
own mode of life, its own social system and, to a certain ex- 
tent, Its own religious customs; while in the midst of the moun- 
tains and on the great plateau of the Interior there were other 
tribes and races, which adopted religious practices peculiar to 
themselves. The effect was that a great variety of religious 
systems arose on this continent; systems which were largely the 
product of the region, and greatly influenced by the pecu- 
liarities of the natural surroundings. 

1. To illustrate: the Esquimaux were scattered along the 
shores of the Arctic Sea, and were confined to the ice fields 
and to a region where the year was divided into a long winter 
of darkness and a short summer of daylight. The natural con- 
sequence of this was that they developed a form of religion, or 
superstition, entirely different from any which existed else- 
where. The people here were fishermen and their religion 
consisted in the superstition which peopled the sea with strange 
creatures, which they imagined to have supernatural powers 
and at the same time had the human form. To the suuth of 
this was the second district, which extended from the Arctic 
Sea to the chain of the Great Lakes and as far south as the 
Ohio River, It was occupied by a people mainly hunters, 
who lived on the creatures found in the forests and rivers and 
lakes. It was natural that they should have developed a form of 
religion which had regard to the wild animals which prevailed 
in the forest, and that their mythology should have abounded 
with descriptions of strange creatures which dwe't in the water. 
Stories were told about fish and serpents which were natural- 
istic and at the same time fraught with supernatural powers. 

2. There were tribes living on the prairies as far west as the 
Rocky Mountains and as far north as Lake Winnipeg, who 
might be called nomads and were constantly moving about m 
pursuit of game, spending a part of the time in villages scat-, 
tered along ttie streams, and a part of the time in mountains. 
All of these tribes were totemistic in their beliefs, and yet their 
totems varied, for the people who dwelt in the. forest took the 
wild animals which abounded about them, and made them their 
totems, while those who dwelt on the prairie lands took the 
buffalo and other animals which roamed on the prairies as their 
totems. The mythology of the two classes varied almost as 
much as did the animals themselves. Even the form of gov- 
ernment varied — in one case it was matriarchy; in the other, it 
was patriarchy. 


3. Another region is worthy of notice because of the diversity 
of population and the peculiar form of religion which pre- 
vailed. It is the region in which so many mounds were situa- 
ted — mounds which contained a great variety of relics, on 
which the greatest number of symbols have been discovered. 
These symbols are speechless, but they tell the story about 
the religious system . which prevailed, and have great in- 
terest for the archaeologist. It appears that there was a 
great variety in these symbols, and the conclusion is that there 
was a great diversity in the religious beliefs of the people who 
dwelt here. They were symbols which abounded with crosses 
and circles, crescents and squares, animal figures, spiders, birds, 
and serpents; all of which had a latent significance. In fact, 
the symbols all indicate that sun worship was the chief system 
which prevailed here, though it was modified by the lunar cult, 
and by a regard for certain animals and insects, which were 
connected with Nature worship. This is the region where ser- 
pent symbols are very numerous, but the pyramid is also found 
here; the two indicating that there was a greater variety of 
religious systems than prevailed farther north. 

4. The aridregion will be considered next. This was separated- 
from the region just described, by a wide range of mountains, 
but was, and still is, occupied by a people who have a form of 
religion, as well as a mode of life, distinct from either of those 
which have been described. Here we find mountaineers who 
are at present shepherds, but were formerly hunters. The 
Navajos are the best representatives of them. But in the 
midst of the mountains the Great Plateau arises, which has 
been called the " air continent." It is an arid region, yet it is 
occupied, and has been for an unknown period, by the Pueblo 
tribes, who have developed a communistic state of society and 
are practicing a form of religion which differs from any other 
on the continent. 

5. There was a district in the Vallev of Mexico, but which 
stretched far to the south into the region of Central America. 
Here society had developed beyond the hunter stage, even be- 
yond the ordinary agricultural stage, into a stage in which 
there were many different employments, but all under the con- 
trol of kings and priests. It was a region into which the 
Spaniards entered, and where they found many things which 
surprised them. The form of religion which existed here was 
a matter of greater surprise to the Spaniards, than the social 
development. The symbolism which prevailed here is very 
elaborate and worthy of study. There was here a system of 
writing, which differed from all others in the world, a system 
which consisted of hieroglyphics, but so mingled with picto- 
graphs that it was difficult to decipher. The system which 
existed here may be regarded as a solar cult, modified by the 
worship of the elements and a regard for personal divinities, 
who seem to be the personification of the heavenly bodies and 





the Nature powers. This is a form of religion which 
we shall need to study, for it differs from any found 
elsewhere. We may say, however, that it so re- 
sembles that which prevailed in Central America, 
Peru, and other parts of South America, that it 
should be classed under the same head. A term 
has been devised by Major J. W. Powell, which re- 
represents the chief peculiarity; the term is "Heno- 
theism." It consisted in the worship of the Nature 
powers as personified, but making some one of these 
powers the chief object of worship and ascribing 
to it a personal character, but also personifying 
other Nature powers and making them subordinate. 
Thus the religious system corresponded to the state 
of society, of which there were different grades and 
different ofifices, and at the same time it corre- 
sponded with the works of nature and peculiarities 
of climate, the correlation between the religion and 
the geographical surroundmgs being vcy close. - 

Now, this is a mere summary, but it shows that 
there were many different forms of religion and dif- 
ferent systems of mythology, on the continent of 
North America, and that they all corresponded to 
the geographical surroundings. The origin of these 
religions and the different stages through which they 
have passed, is another point, but so far as they have 
been studied, the systems all were closely con- 
formed to the geographical situation. We ajre not 
able to trace any of these systems back to a very 
early period; certainly no such early period as existed 
in the lands of the far East, but we do find an adapta- 
tion to the surroundings, which are quite as striking 
as any that can be traced in other lands. 

It will be acknowledged that in the continent of 
Europe there were different systems of religion, and 
that they corresponded v\ith the physical surround- 
ings. The mythology always abounds with stories 
which bring the natural scenery into view and give 
the picture a background, which is not only natural 
but interesting. Such is the case with the Scandi- 
navian and Teutonic mythology. But much of the 
mythology of America is equally beautiful and in- 
teresting, and at the same time it pictures the Ameri- 
can scenery as it was before the white man appeared, 
and is all the more interesting on that account. It is 
true that each tribe or group of tribes was confined 
to a particular locality, and developed its own myth- 
ology and religious system, but this gives great 
variety and furnishes an unbounded field for research 
and for speculation. 


1 1,11' 


The continent of America, in fact, fur- 
nishes more systems of religion and of my- 
thology than any other continent upon the 
face of the earth, but they are all systems 
which seem to have grown up in the same 
region where they are now found, and they 
are full of allusions to the physical char- 
acter and topographical features of the 
region where they are preserved. 

II. This brings up the point which is of 
great interest to the scholars who have 
studied the subject of comparative religions. 
One of the first questions is: What is the 
lowest form of religion, and through what 
stages did it pass? We, who live in Christ- 
ian lands, know what the highest form is, 
but the question is as to the Towest. 

On this question there are great differ- 
ences of opinion, and no two are really in 
agreement. The study of the problem in 
connection with the races which were found 
on this continent, may be of service to us 
especially when we consider the correspond- 
ence of their religion to their social state, 
their domestic life, and their peculiar habits 

and ways. 

We begin with the Hyperboreans, who 
dwelt on the shores of the Arctic Sea, the 
most degraded of all the races upon the face 
of the earth. There never was a people 
more stupid in their religious ideas than 
these people at the far North, and none 
more degraded in their personal character. 
The dark night, which contmued so long 
and presented such a strange contrast to the 
ghostly icebergs and cold ice fields, un- 
doubtedly had the effect to keep alive 
the superstitions which prevailed. It is 
not strange that with the muttering ice- 
bergs and swashing of the waves under- 
nea^th 'the icy shores, that there should 
have arisen a superstition that a super- 
natural being dwelt under the water, and 
could be seen at times amid the waves. 

Note The cuts show the power of the shamans among the 

Rsquimfliix and their belief in the presence of demons In one we 
see the boat r sling on posts, the winter habitation, store houses, 
trees in the middle, the Shaman and the burners. In another, 
the Shaman stands upon his lodge, and drives back the g me, the 
deer ars seen swimming in the water In the third, we see the 
hunter shooting the game which has heon driven up to him by the 
demon and his assis ant«. The control of the Shaman over the 
demon is the essential part of the pictigraph 


The story, as told by the Esquimaux, is that Sedna a 
fen\ale who accompanied her liusband, or liege lord, in a canoe 
voyage over the northern sea, but while they were in the midst 
of the waters, there arose a fierce storm and both were likely 
to be overwhelmed. Tne canoe was overthrown, both fell into 
the water, but the man was able to climb into the canoe again, 
while the woman was only able to cling to the sides. While in 
this attitude, the storm blew upon them and the waves threat- 
ened to engulf them, and death seemed near, but the man, 
taking his stone knife or axe, cut off the fingers of the woman 
and thrust her away, so that she sank beneath the waves. The 
superstition of the natives is that this Sedna, who became a 
monster and yet retained her character as a woraan, still lives 
under the sea, and whenever a fierce storm arises and the waves 
toss high amid the blasts, and the wind's shriek, they can not 
only hear the voice of this first of all created beings, but they 
can see her face dimly looking out from beneath the sea, the 
water and the face mingling together to arouse their fears. 
Sedna is the chief divinity of the Arctic regions. She maybe 
regarded as the personifications of the sea and the storm, for 
she is supposed to be as cruel as either, and as ready to seize 
upon all who come within her reach and draw them down into 
the dark depths. 

There is another system which p-evails in the same region. 
It consists, in the belief that there is not only one living per- 
son who can be regarded as a demon or a ghost, but that 
there are many such, and they continue to inhabit the rocks 
and the earth, and even the air, and are constantly present to 
deprive the people of their food, by driving away the deer 
from their habitations, keeping them from success in fishing, 
and bringing upon them di-ease and death. This is another 
form of demonism, but the demon now becomes vi'^ible and in- 
habits the land as well as the sea, There is no ordinary person 
who can overcome the demons or banish them from the sky or 
earth, except the Shaman, and it is his chief mission to pro- 
tect the people from the evil influence, and counteract it by 
his own charms. Illustrations of this fact may 'be found in 
what may be called the pictographs or bone cuttings, speci- 
mens of which are given in the cuts. These carved bones are, 
perhaps, the rudest of all the specimens of art which have 
been found on this continent, but are suggestive of the system 
of religion which prevailed. Some have compared the bone 
carvings to those which are found in the caves of Europe, and 
have drawn the inference from the resemblance and other cir- 
cumstances, that the Esquimaux were the descendants of the 
old cave dwellers of Europe; but we know nothing about the 
religion of the cave dwellers and, therefore, can trace no 
resemblance between the two systems. 

We Itarn from the pictographs and carved bones that the 
people believed implicitlv in the power of the presence of 


demons, and therefore were led to rely upon the power of the 
Shnmans, or priebts, to dispel or drive away the demons, and 
to bring in the game. VVe see this illustrated by the cuts, in 
all of which we see the reindeer, and even the fish and other 
creatures subject to the Shaman, while the people were subject 
to his power for their vtry subsistence. This may be corn- 
pared to that form of religion which prevailed in the far East 
in early historic times, which consisted in the belief in demons, 
and depended upon the power of the priest to exorcise them, 
survivals of which were recognized late in history, e\'en among 
the Babylonians. Demonism similar to that which still pre- 
vails in the ice fields of the North, prevailed in archaic times in 
the regions of the far East, especially in Babylonia. This has 
been made known by the recent discoveries. It is supposed, 
also, that the various animal figures which are stid common 
here, and have been discovered among the ruins in the midst 
of the mounds of Babylonia, are really the survival of the 
totemism which pre\ailed .there. 

Similar to this belief in demons and growing out of it, was 
the habit of cutting the shapes of the human face upon the 
surface of the rocks, and placing within them great glaring 
eyes, which seemed to resemble demons looking out from the 
depth of the earth, suggesting the thought that Sedna, the 
great demon of the sea, had changed her abode from the sea 
to the rock, and though silent and speechless, yet was haunt- 
ing ihe eaith. Some have interpreted this as an evidence that 
animi-m was the earliest form of religion, and that it pre- 
vailed here, along with demonism. This may, indeed, be a 
true interpretation, for it is one characteristic of the supersti- 
tion that there is a hidden soul or spirit in almost ever)- object 
in creation. It is not often that the soul has lineaments which 
can be seen, as in this case of the face in the rocks, but it is 
rather a shadowy ghost and is oftent-r heard of than seen. 
Such is the belief of the degraded Africans and many other 
races, who dwell far away from the seats of civilization. 

The system of animism is associated with demonism, and 
awakens fear in the mind of the savage, just as the shadow and 
a ghost would awaken a fear in the minds of the partially 
civilized. The three systems which are to be found in the far 
North of this continent may well be compared to those which 
are called the rudest and lowest, /.£-., fetishism, animism and 

III. The system of totemism comes up next for considera- 
tion. This has been often described, and yet it is poorly under- 
stood. It consists in the belief that animals were the first 
ancestors, and are at present the chief divinities. The names 
of the animals are given to the clans, with the idea that there 
is a charm in the name itself. To make this, however, more 
forcible, the people place the figure of the animal on the tents 
or in front of the houses, on their graves, and in every place 


which they occupied. Some of the tribes cut the hair, so as to 
represent the animal whose totem they worshiped. There are 
individual totems which are in reality dream gods, for they are 
seen only after long fasting and in connection with their visions 
or day dreams. This form of religion is quite widespread, but 
prevailed mainly among the hunter tribes, but varies according 
to locality. The totemism which existed among the Algon- 
quins differed from that found among the Iroquois, and this 
again from that found among the Dakotas, the variations ap- 
pearing even among the separate tribes. The study of syrn- 
bolism will bring us into contact with this totemism, and it is 
important that we should realize how deeply-seated it was in 
the mind of the people before we undertake to interpret the 

It would seem as if all nature was haunted by supernatural 
beings, who were regarded by the people as tribal totems and 

Fig, <f.. — The Dser, 

Fig. J — The Crane. 

as personal divinities. These fabulous animals dwell under the 
waterfalls, in lakes, in caves, in trees, hills, and people the 
landscape everywhere, so that it seems almost impossible to 
escape from their presence and power. Reminders of the 
totems are found upon the tents and houses, the garments, 
personal decorations and ornaments, and fill even the amuse- 
ments with strange associations and thoughts. The most 
singular feature about totemism is that every individual, as 
well as every clan and tribe, is under the special care and 
guardianship of some animal. The figure of the same animal 
is often placed upon the wooden tablets which are placed over 


the grave of the individual. These grave posts recount the 
exploits of the individual, as well as the religious beliefs, and 
in this respect resemble the grave stones and monuments on 
which the virtues ot the deceased are mentioned. 

The cuts represent the grave boards which are still com- 
mon among the Ojibwas. One of these (Fig. 4) represents 
the totem which is the deer, it is placed upside down, to denote 
the death of the person. Along with it are marks showing the 
battles which the person had fought, and below are personal 
decorations and signs of honor as well as the religious beliefs. 
Another one (Fig. 5) represents the crane, which was a com- 
mon and prominent totem in the region. Figures 6 and ; re- 
present the turtle and the bear, which were also prominent 
totems. Figures 8 and 9 represent the grave boards of the 


Fig. 7.— The Bear. 

Ojibwas, which give the private records as well as the totems 
of the individual. 

It is acknowledged by all students of comparative religion 
that there is a complete series, which can'be traced out by the 
study of the ancient monuments of the East; but that there 
was any such series to be found upon this continent, is some- 
what novel, and yet the fact that we have the same social con- 
ditions here which correspond with those which were common 
in the East at various dates, makes the continent a very favor- 
able field for the study of the subject. The prevalence of 
totemism in Old Testament times is shown by the dying words 
of Jacob, for in them he described the animal figures which 
were shown on the escutcheon of each tribe. The lion, on the 
escutcheon of Judah; the serpent, on that of Dan; the wild 



ass, on that of Issachar; and the hind on that of Naphtali. 
Toteinism prevails among the tribes of Arabia to this day. 
It also existed in Scandinavia and may be recognized in their 
mythology, as well as in the ornaments and symbols, especially 
tlie symbol of the dragon seen upon their boats. 

A modified form of totemism is found in the Mississippi 
Valley, especially on the Ohio River and the Gulf of Mexico. 
Here we see amid the stone graves and in the mounds, a great 
variety of pottery vases, shell tablets, and other relics, on which 
are inscribed circles and squares and spiral lines, crescents, 
sun symbols, winged figures, and human images. These sug- 
gest a thought that sun worship was mingled with animal wor- 

Ei^. 8. — The Crane. 

Fig. g. — Dreams 

ship and that religion had grown out of totemism into sun 
worship and assumed a new form. 

IV. There was a system of religion which prevailed among 
the tribes of the Northwest coast. It consisted in the worship 
of supernatural beings in the form of birds, animals, fishes, and 
double-headed serpents; the four elements — air, earth, water 
and fire — each being represented by a special divinity The 
bird, which is supreme upon the land, is the raven, called Yehl. 
It dwells in the forest, but reigns supreme over the creatures 
in the air. The bear is the animal which is regarded as the 
ruler of the earth. His supernatural character is shown by the 
manner in which he is pictured, for there always is a great 


glaring eye looking out from every part of the body of the 
bear; his paws, his different limbs, his head, and his ears have 
eyes. In fact, he seems to be all eyes. This is, perhaps, a 
modification of the previous system in which the eyes were 
looking out from the solid rock, but in this case the bear seems 
to be alive, and yet possessed by a hidden spirit. The myths are 
very different from those which prevailed among the tribes of 
the Interior, for they relate to the adventures of sea monsters, 
who had the power of transforming themselves into human be- 
ings, and again into animals. This was the case with the totems 
of the hunter tribes, for transformation was very common and 
many stories are told of the tricks played by means of this 
transformation. There was such a correspondence between the 
animal totems and the Nature power<, that the animals were 
supposed to dwell at the different points of the compass and 
send the winds and the rains. These were not strictly totems, 
at least not personal or individual totems, but the mingling of 
the totems with the Nature powers personified, formed the 
basis of a great variety of myths, which are very interesting. 

The sea is supposed to hide another divinity called the 
whale killer. This is a fabulous creature, and is capable of 
changing its shape, for there are many stories in which the 
creature appears as a great canoe, but is transformed into a 
sea animal. There are figures upon the fronts of the houses, 
which represent this whale killer as held in the claws of the 
raven, thus indicating that the sea gods and gods of the sky 
have been drawn close together. In this figure the eye is very 
conspicuous, but the winged feathers and the vertebrae of the 
bird and of the whale are al-^o clearly seen. The double- 
headed serpent is generally carried in the hand, and is a sym- 
bol which served an important part in the dances. It is called 
the sisul and is generally worn in front of the stomach. The 
human face and eyes may be seen at the center, the animal 
head and eye at either end, with the serpent body and scales 
between the heads. This illustrates the habit of bringing to- 
gether their divinities into one object. 

The stories are numerous which celebrate the exploits of 
these various creatures, but they all convey the idea that they 
are supernatural beings and to be worshiped as well as feared. 
There are many dances and religious ceremonies in which the 
natives cover themselves with blankets and put upon their 
heads great masks representing the head and jaws of the wolf. 
This suggests the idea that human beings are sometimes trans- 
formed into animals, and reminds us of the transformation 
which is so common in all parts of the continent, for there 
were no hard and fast lines between the different animals, or 
between animals and men. The supposition formerly was that 
they were designed as the totems of the tribes, but the opinion 
now is that thev embodied the mvthologies and represent the 
villages, as each Village was founded by a supernatural being, 


who gave power and authority to the chief, or human founder, 
to represent him; the result was that the different crests were 
carved into the poles, some of tiiem representing the super- 
natural being, the bird or fish, or some other animal; also the 
crest of the village chief, and the crest of the different de- 
scendants of the first chief. It is to be noticed that the human- 
izing tendency was very strong, so that all the birds and ani- 
mals and creatures of the sea were spoken of as having human 
attributes; the sye, the symbol of humanity, being placed in 
all parts of the bodies, whether beasts or birds. 

Mr. Hill-Tout says: "The sculptures and paintings were 
ancestral and not totemistic in character." The son inherited 
his father's rank and property, with all his carvings and crests 
and emblems, which were largely commemorative in character. 
There was a tendency among all these people to humanize 
everything. The raven, the wolf and the bear, and all other 
animals were humanized, and stories were told about them, as 
if they were human beings. Conversation is held between 
men and women and the animals, and even between the 
heavenly bodies — the sun, moon, and the stars. There were 
no lines which separated the material from the animal, the 
animal from the human, the human from the divine or super- 
natural being. An immense amount of mythology has accu- 
mulated in this way, for everything on the earth, in the air, in 
the sea or sky, whether animal, men and women, or heavenly 
bodies, are mingled together, intermarry and converse, and their 
adventures are very numerous. 

V. There is a form of religion still existing in the interior 
of the continent, which well deserves our attention, and we 
hope to describe it mpre at length in the future. It is found 
among the Navajoes, who dwelt among the mountains of Utah 
and Colorado. This religion consists in the worship of the 
elements, such as the clouds, the sky, the rainbow, the moun- 
tains, lakes, hills, and also animals, birds, and other creatures, 
which inhabited them. The mythology is very beautiful and 
picturesque, and shows that the love of nature abounded with 
all this people. There is no mythology that is more beautiful 
than that which comes to us from the tribes who dwelt in the 
deep interior of the continent. Their mythology was founded 
upon their religion, and their religion sprang from the love of 
nature. We may call it superstition, yet it was a superstition 
that peopled everything with harmless divinities. Even the 
serpent, which was generally supposed to ht treacherous and 
hostile and dangerous is represented as a benefactor, and 
always bestowing gifts upon the people; in fact, the serpent is 
a symbol of the rain-cloud, which is always a welcome visitor. 
The people watch the sky closely, for their very existence de- 
pends upon having rain. 

There is a distinction between the religion of the Navajoes, 
who were formerly hunters but now are sheperds, and the 



Pueblos. The Navajoes were mountaineers, 
yet they retain the same religion they had 
when in their wild state. Their myth- 
ology is very beautiful and abounds with 
allusions to all the beautiful things of na- 
ture — clouds, sunbeams, sparkling waters, 
crystals, rocks of the mountains, mosses, 
twigs of trees, animals which inhabit the 
caves and rocks, birds among the trees, 
supernatural beings that are in the clouds, 
divinities that dwell on the mountain tops; 
all are mingled together, and the strangest 
fancies are indulged in, in describing them. 
There seems to have been, also, a deeper 
apprehension of the meaning of nature 
than most people have, certainly much 
deeper and more varied than anything 
found among the white population of that 
region or any other. Everything was 
shadowy and filled with supernatural 

VI. There was a form of religion which 
prevailc d among the tribes of the Interior, 
which consisted in the worship of the Na- 
ture powers, under the figure of theserpent. 

There are occasional figures upon the 
pottery found in the mounds, and upon 
the shields and other ornaments found 
among the Pueblos, which represent 
winged figures. These can hardly be 
called totems, for the)- are more like 
mythological creatures. They may be re- 
garded as connecting Links between totems 
and a higher form of symbolism. In will 
be seen in the figure that the serpents 
have feathered heads and large wings; the 
body is open, so as to show the heart. 
The sun symbol is connected with each 
winged serpent. The figures on the 
shields have wings, but they also have the 
serpent below the feet. 

These serpents were also regarded as 
divinities which ruled over the different 
parts of creation. There was, however, 
the same superstition that prevailed else- 
where on the continent, that there were 
supernatural beings everywhere present, 
in the sky above, in the depths of the earth 
below, in different directions upon the 
«arth; and that all the elements, — the air, 

IVinged Serpent. 



the earth, fire, and water, were haunted or possessed by 
unseen creatures. The main difference between this system 
and that which prevailed farther north, was that the ser- 
pent took its place in the sky, instead of a raven, as it was 
the personification of the cloud and was supposed to bring; 
the rains. This furnishes an explanation for the celebrated 
snake dance. The people, it appears, were not satisfied 
with offering their prayers to the cloud divinities, or making 
symbols of the rain clouds, when they performed their 
ceremonies, but they must have some live object which they 
could hold in their hands and mouth, and realize that they had 
brout^ht it under their power, This was, perhaps, not thought 
out deliberately, but came to them from their habit of putting 
all their prayers into sacred dramas and religious ceremonies, 
and miking everything as concrete as possible. 

It is to be noticed here that no prayer was effective unless 
it was svmbnlized and made substantial by something that 

Pig 1 1. —Ornamented Wall of Buried City in Honduras. 

could be seen. It was on this account that so many frames, 
which are called altars, are erected, consisting of painted slats 
of wood, while in front of them are other figures of the rain- 
clouds, surrounded by rods, the ears of corn and other objects 
placed as offerings in front of the altars. This form of reli- 
gion is, perhaps, more reasonable than that which prevailed in 
the region of the North, for it consists of sacred dramas in 
which the prayers of the people are acted out, the ceremonies 
all proving to be very carefully observed, and there is gener- 
ally a spirit of reverence among the people. The heavenly 
bodies are closely watched, especially the sun in its move- 
ments through the sky. The superstition is that when it ap- 
proaches the solstitial point, that there must be a prayer and 
religious ceremony, or it will never return. 



The Pueblos have a mythology which abounds with stories 
about the various animals, such as the wolf, the bear, the mole, 
as well as the serpent. The eagle is ver}' prominent in their 
mythology. They carry with them shields upon which are in- 
scribed or painted in different colors human figures, with tur- 
reted caps upon their heads, symbolizing the mountains, a bear 
standing on either side, a serpent below the feet, thus showing 
that the close association of animals, human beings, and 
divinities, all mingled together and surrounded by the elements 
of nature. The serpent figures vary conspicuously in their 
mythology. Much can be learned from the study of their 
religious customs, and especially comparing the myths and 
ceremonies common among them, with those which prevailed 
among the wild tribes scattered about them. 

VII, We shall next consider the religion of the so-called 
civilized races, such as the Nahuas, Mayas, and others situated 

Ftg. 13. — Fresco Figure from Mexico. 

in Mexico and Central America, including the Quichuas in 
Peru. The religion of the Mayas was fund^mently the same as 
that of the Nahuas. Most of the gods were deified heroes, 
though we occasionally find traces of an older sun-worship, 
and the conjecture is that an original astral worship once 

This is illustrated by the cuts. One of which represents 
the frescoes on the walls of a buried temple in Honduras. In 
these frescoes human forms are covered with animal heads 
and surrounded by figures representing plumed serpents. An- 
other cut (Fig. 12) represents paintings from Monte Alban in 
Mexico, In these an animal headed creature seems to be facing 
a draped altar. The significance of the picture is unknown. An- 
other cut (Fig. 13) represents a row of idols, which has also been 



discovered in Honduras. There are no altars in front of these 
and so they form an exception to the general rule, for in most 
cases where human images are seen, there are altars in front of 
them; many of them being in the shape of animals or huge 
dragons or nondescript creatures. 

VIII. There was a form of religion which prevailed in 
Peru. It consisted mainly in the deifying of the Incas, who 
were regarded as the sons of the sun, and so, in a measure, 
divine. The symbols in Peru were, however, mainly images 
of the sun and moon. These were placed on the walls of the 

J^'ig.jj. — Idols in Honduras. 

temples, the best specimens of which were seen by the 
Spaniards at Quito. It appears that sun-dials were numerous 
and that from these the Peruvian priests calculated the seasons, 
and by this means regulated all the affairs of the nation. 
There were no such carved statues in Peru, as have been dis- 
covered in Central America, and no altars which betokened 
that sacrifies were offered to kings; yet th government of 
Peru was based on tjie idea that the Inca was S' perior to all, 
and that the Inca race belonged to a different order. 





The patriarch Jacob, just before his death, called his sons 
together and prophesied their future destiny and that of 
the tribes that were to descend from them. In doing so he 
used certain symbols or emblems which were probably promi- 
nent in their tribal escutcheons, and made these the basis of 
his prophecy. The following is his language : "Judah is a 
lion's whelp;" "The Scepter shall not depart from Judah 
until Shiloh come ;" "Issachar is a strong ass couching down 
between two burdens ;" " Dan shall be a serpent by the way, 
an adder in the path;" " Xaphtali is a hind let loose;" 
"Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well ;" 
"Benjamin shall raven as a wolf, in the morning he shall 
devour the prey and at night divide the spoils." — Genesis, 
Chapter 48: 8, 14, 17, 21, 22, 27. In these expressions, we 
have a series of word pictures which clearly portray the 
characteristics of the different tribes, their histor}-, as 
well as a description of the geographical localities which 
they occupied. How the patriarch came to use this lan- 
guage is a mystery, but there may have been a kind of 
picture language prevalent in the patriarchal age which he 
used to designate the traits of each one of his children, and 
to show that the history of each one of the tribes which 
should descend from them, would partake of these traits. It is. 
known that at a very early time significant names and emblems; 
were given to individuals, and that these were transmitted to- 
the children, and as their posterity increased, they became 
tribal emblems. There were also dreams which were pro- 
phetic, and it may be that the patriarch in his dreams saw 
the emblems which belonged to the different sons, and in^ 
them read the history of the tribes which should be raised: 
up from them. Whatever the explanation is, the passages, 
furnish a good illustration of a custom which was common, 
among the uncivilized races, and is still prevalent among the 
aborigines of America, namely: the custom of giving the- 
names of animals and plants to the children, and making 
these serve as emblems of the clan or tribe. ' 

' .\moner certain tribes there was a change from matriarchy to patriarchy. In such 
cases thechihlren took the name of the father's clan and bore the emblem or sign which 
belonged to the father. 


In most of the tribes thpse names were given by the 
mother, or rather were taken from the clan to which the 
mother belonged, and were transmitted by a fixed law, for 
the children by the law of matriarchy, always belonged to 
the clan of the mother, and carried the name and emblem 
of that clan. It was in this way that the clan, tribal and 
family names first appeared. They were not names which 
Avere taken from the employments, occupations, or trades, 
nor were they names which were descriptive of personal ex- 
ploits or incidents such as some of the Indians have borne, 
nor were they arbitrary nick names which were given to 
describe the characteristics of the individual, but they were 
ancestral names and resemble in this respect surnames which 
are now extant. The main difference between the historic 
and prehistoric surnames was that the latter were always the 




na!mes of animals which were regarded as ancestors, while in 
historic times, surnames were derived from occupations, etc. 
Occasionall}' there was a name which was altogether private, 
and which might be called the dream name for it was the 
name of some animal which appeared to the individual in a 
dream. These dreams came after long fasting, and were 
the result of the hidden exercises of the mind which would 
naturally occur before the initiation of warriors. When the 
vision of some animal appeared, the young man felt himself 
prepared for his initiation as a warrior, and as he presented 
himself for the rite he would take the skin of the animal or 
some figure of it as a personal fetich or charm and would 
join the society which bore the name of the animal that had 

Maj. J. W. Powell holds that niatriaichy prevailed among the people who -were in 
the status of savaKcvy hut chanj^jod to patriarchy when they reached the status of bar- 
barism. See loth Annual Report of Hu. ]<:thnoloKy Intro. He also gives the name 
clan to a group of people reckoning kiusliip in a female line; tlie name of gens to a 
group of people reckoning kinship in tlie male line. When tribes unite in confederacies, 
artificial kinship is establislied as a legal fiction, and the members of one tribe know 
the members of another tribe by the artificial emblem, which they wear, and address 
them by kinship terms. Adopted members are given artificial kinship, and have the 
£ame rights as those who are born into clans or tribes. 







Catlin paj-s these symbolic writings or totems are found recorded on rocks and trees, 
als > on r< b:'s and wigwams, and are very numerous. 


appeared to him/ In this \va}' there arose a system of reli- 
gion which was very wide-spread and very powerful among 
all the hunter tribes of America which was called totemism." 

Now it is to this totemism that we shall devote the present 

I. We shall begin with a description of the system and 
the new kinship introduced by it. 

(i) There were two kinds of kinship, the natural and arti- 
ficial. The natural w£s that system which led to giving the 
names and emblems of the mother or father to the children, 
but the artificial was that which introduced into all the to- 
temistic tribes a new relationship which transcended kin- 
ship according to the flesh. According to totemism, every 
male person must marry outside of his clan. The children 
which were born belonged to the clan of their mother and 
took the name of her clan rather than that of the father. 
There were a few tribes, like the Dakotas for instance, in 
which the law of matriarchy was changed to patriarchy, and 
the children in that case took the name of the father but 
it was generally the mother who gave the name. The name 
was taken al\va\'s from some animal, and generally from one 
that abounded in the region. ^ 

(2) This relationship which came from history and from re- 
ligion, dated back to the time when the different tribes were 
clans of one tribe, and so were descended from a common 
ancestor. The power of religion and regard for ancestr}', 
led the people to value the archaic kinship as more binding 

upon the families than the relationship which then existed. 

. . — - — * 

' Miss Alice Fletcher says : The Indian's relisrion is spoken of as a nature and animal 
worship. Careful inquiry and ob-ervation fail to show that tlio Indian actually wor- 
shiped the objects. iMore faitli is put in the ritual, and a careful observance of forms 
than in any act of self denial in its moral sense, as we understand it. The claim of rela- 
tionship is used to strengthen the appeal. 

= The name was derived from an Ojibwa word which signifies tribe or family, but 
brings to view a system whicli was very wide-spread and very powerful, especially among 
the hunter tribes. It was in fact the system according to wl>ich nearly all aboriginal 
tribes were organized, and whicli also embodied their tribal history and regulated their 
tribal customs, but itself arose out of their mythology and especially out of their cos- 
mic myths. In the east it was called animal worsliip and the name animal tribe was 
given to those who practiced it. In America the term totemism is used, for it brings up 
the thought of the peculiar relationship which was involved, and dismisses the idea of 
worshiping animals whicli is very subordinate, if it existed at all. There was a rever- 
ence for animals inasmuch as certain animals were regarded as ancestors of the tribes, 
a few were also regarded as mythologic beings who were both "Culture heroes and 
Creators." These emblems or figures were very prominent in the " bark records" and 
picture writings. 

.^Mr. J O. Dorsey says: "The Dakotas have animal names for their gentes and 
tribal or clan taboos. Eacii man lias his personal taboo and his personal name. The 
personal names give the color of the animal. Some of their names suggest myths." 
(See Indian personal names, .\nier Anthropologist for .July, ISIH). ) 

Walter Fewkes says: ".Vmong the Tusayaus names of animals have the preference 
over plants, there being 46 of the first and 21 of the latter. It is natural that gentes 
named from horned animals, foxes, coyctes and wolves, shoulil go together. But why 
the ants should be associated with the horn people is not so clear unless we trace it 
back to the history of their migration." 

Captain Bourko says: " If clan names were originally topographical this does not 
militate against the idea that to the mind of the .\merican savage the animals have 
always been gods, and in some vague way connected with the mystery of human crea- 


(2) It was a fraternity which ran through the different 
tribes of a stock or confederacy, and which brought together 
all of the clans which bore the same animal name and had 
the same totem, and made them brothers. 

To illustrate : The Iroquois; who dwelt in New York, were composed of 
five tribes, each tribe was divided into ten or twelve clans named after animals 
— the wolf, bear, beaver, turtle, deer, snipe, heron and hawk. The tribes 
lived in the different parts of the state, and each tribe had its own council 
house, head chief, sachems and specific territory. They were named and situ- 
ated as follows: Beginning at the east, Mohawks, called "The Shield," next 
the Onondagas, called ''Name-Bearer,'' Oneidas, "The Great Tree,"' Cay- 
ugas, "The Great Fipe,'" Senecas, " The Door- Keeper,"' as they were the per- 
petual keepers of the door of the 'iong house." 1 

A person who belonged to the wolf clan could travel along the trail which 
led from tribe to tribe, and would find the members of the wolf clan ready to 
receive him and protect him, and give him a home among them as if he was 
their own brother, as they were brothers according to an archaic fraternity 
and bore the same fraternal emblem. 

There was also an emblem which every one carried about his person which 
indicated the clan to which he belonged. This may have consisted in the pic- 
ture of an animal inscribed upon an amulet or it may have consisted in the 
fashion of cutting the hair, making the moccasins, or wearing apparel, or of 
ornamenting the person or tattooing the face. Whatever the emblem was, it 
was equivalent to a coat of arms, and was a native heraldry. This heraldry 
was recognized everywhere as significant of a totemistic brotherhood. It was 
supplemented often times by sign language, for each tribe had a name which 
could be expressed by signs. 

The Pawnee, whose clan totem is the wolf is seen in a plate given by Cat- 
lin. holding up the hand and fingers so as to show the wolf's ears. Among the 
Hurons and Dakotas the manner of cutting the hair was such as to make the 
head at once suggestive of the animal or bird whose totem the person carried. 
The tuft over the forehead and back of the head and ears resembling the 
wings, head and tail of the eagle, showed that the person belonged to the 
eagle clan. The ridge of hair which was left on the crown, resembling the 
back of the buffalo, showed that the person belonged to the buffalo clan. 

Among the Haidas of the North West Coast the figure of the squid or 
frog, or cod, or sculpin, the double figure of the wolf tattooed upon the arms, 
legs, breast, or back or shoulders of the man and woman would indicate the 
clan or tribe to which they belonged. 

This heraldry was equivalent to that which belonged to the royal families 
of Europe, and with some of the tribes symbolized the genealogy of the family 
and the exploits and traditional history. It was as much a sign of fraternity 
as the pins, badges and other symbols which are worn by the members of the 

'Mr. L. H. Morgan says: ".Ml tho members of the same tjens whether Mohawks, 
Oneidas. Onondagas, Cayugas or St'necas wore brotliers and sisters to each other, in 
virtue of their descent from the same common ancestor, and were recognized as such. 
Three of the gentes, wolf, bear and turtle were common to five tribes. The deer, snipe 
and hawk were common to three tribes.— .\ncient Society, p. l'.i'.i. 


various secret societies and college fraternities, but introduced a brotherhood 
which was stronger and more sacred than that which came from these societies. * 

(4) According to Mr. Morgan, there were two changes. 
First. The change of descent from the female line to the 
male line. Second. The change of inheritance of the 
propert}' of the deceased member from the clan or gens in 
the collective capacity to the agnatic kindred, and finally to 
the man's children." Yet there were certain rights and privi- 
leges which inhere in the system. These were as follows : 
(a) The right of electing chiefs. (/?) The right of inheritance 
of the property of deceased members. (r) The right of be- 
stowing names upon members and adopting strangers into 
the gens. ((/) The right of help, defense and redress of in- 
juries, (e) Right to a common burial place and a share in 
religious ceremonies. (/) Right to a representation in 
council of the gens. (g-) Obligation not to marry in the 
gens. All these rights and privileges were enjoyed by those 
who bore the clan emblem. The totem which he carried on 
his person brought an obligation on the clan which bore the 
same totem to defend him. They were all brothers, not by 
kinship, but by religion. 

(5) In some tribes the communistic system prevailed. The 
families and persons which belonged to a particular clan had 
a share of the food which was to be had, whether it was in 
his own family or in some other family. The supply was to 
ths clan rather than to the household. This did not alway.s 
exist, for there were tribes where the family lived separate, 
and had its provisions separate, but it was very common. In 
such a case the totem may be said to have brought the pro- 
vision to each person. 

(6) The inheritance of landed property was in the clan. 
There was no property in severalty among the uncivilized 
tribes. The property and effects of the mother passed to her 
children, and in default of them, to her sister's children, but al- 
ways remained in the clan. This is the case among the Algon- 
quins. Among the Lagunas the land is held in common as 
the property of the community, but after a person cultivated 
a lot he had a personal claim to it which he could sell to any 
one of the community. Among the Iroquois the property 
was hereditary in the gens. Consequently, children took 

'Mr. Morgan, who was initiated by the Iroquois, aays: "The gens embraced all 
such persons as trace their descent from a supposed common ancestor thronsh females. 
The evidence of the fact was the possession of a common gentile name. It does not in- 
clude all the descendants of a common ancestor, but all wlio bear the name are entitled 
to the totem. The gentile organization originated in the period cf savagery, endured 
through the three sub-periods of barbarism, and finally gave way when the tribe at- 
tained to civilization and tiie land and property took the place of kinship. 

= See .\ncieut Society, p. 74. 


nothing from their fathers, but inherited their mother's 
effects. ^ 

(7) The history ■ of the clans is thus given by the totem. 
It appears that the different tribes grew up together and 
bore the names of a common ancestry, as the animal names 
of the clans were repeated in every tribe. This, to be sure, 
varied in the different tribes, for there were in some of the 
clans, or gentes, sub-gentes, which took other names. There 
were also clans which became incorporated in certain tribes, 
and these introduced certain emblems or totems. Still, 
even witn this confusion the history of the tribe could be 
traced in the totems. 

(8) The government of the clan was influenced by to- 
temism. The office of sachem or civil chief is hereditary in 
the gens, but elective among the members. Each gens had 
the power to depose as well as elect its chiefs. 

Carver says of the Dakotas : " The office of sachem, or clan elder, passes 
from brother to brother, or from uncle to nephew. That of war-chief was be- 
stowed as a reward of merit and was not hereditary. The sachem has more 
immediate management of civil affairs. His assent is necessary to all treaties " ^ 

Among the Winnebagos the sons of a deceased chief were not always eli- 
gible, for on the death of a chief his sister's son succeeds him in preference to 
his own son.""^ 

" A practice was common among certain tribes, such as the Shawnees, 
Miamis, Sauks and Foxes, of naming children into the gens. This would en- 
able a son to succeed his father in offi:e, and enable the children to inherit the 
property from the father. The father had no control over the question of 
naming the children It was left by the gens to certain persons, most of tnem 
matrons, who were to be consulted when children were to be named, with 
power to determine the name to be given." ^ 

Herrera rem irks of the Mayas: "They were wont to 
observe their pedigrees very much, and therefore thought 
themselves all related and were helpful to one another. They 
did not marrv anv that bore the same name as their father. 
This was looked upon as unlawful."" 

"The Laguna Pueblo Indians are organized in gentes with 
descent in the female line. Each town is divided into tribes 
or families, and each of these groups is named after some 
animal, bird, herb, tree, plant, or one of the four elements. 
Some are called bear, deer, rattlesnake, corn, wolf and 

' See .\ncient Society, p. l.")3. 

'■' It was ;i totemishic history, rather than a genealogical or tribal, inasmuch as every 
clansman bejjan his history at tlie time he was initiated and received his new name 
The experience in tlie dreams may be compared to conversion in modern times, for it 
was always very remarkable. 

^ See .Vncient Society, p. 15.'). 

•* See .\nciont Society, !>. 157. 

■^.Vncient Society, p. Itii). 

" This shows that patriarchy existed among the Mayas. 


water. The children are of the same tribe, (gens) as their 

There arc many other characteristics to the totem system 
but those which have been spoken of will show how power- 
ful and far-reaching it was. 

II. We therefore turn from these to speak of the relation 
•of totemism to the native mythology. Here let us say 
that there was a native mythology in America which was as 
varied and interesting as that which prevailed in Scandinavia, 
India, or even in classic lands. 

This mythology had not reached the stage where personal 
divinities were recognized and myths invented to celebrate 
their exploits, nor had it reached that stage where the nature 
powers and heavenly bodies were deified, or at any rate, to no 
such extent as they were in the Far East, though there were 
certain myths that celebrated the exploits of the mountain 
divinities, and others represented the nature powers as hu- 
manized divinities. The chief peculiarities of American myth- 
ology was that it abounded with animal divinities and rung 
the changes as to the exploits of these, viewed as personal 
beings or as humanized animals. 

It is interestijig to go over the different parts of the conti- 
nent to see how the animals were deified and made to repre- 
sent supernatural beings. 

It would seem as if the whole sky and earth, and even the 
waters under the earth .vere filled with the imaginary beings 
who bore the animal form and yet had human attributes. 
This can be accounted for on the ground that totemism was 
the prevailing religion and the myths were about the animals 
which were worshipped as totems. It is in this way that the 
early history of totemism was transmitted and the meaning 
and object of the totems were made known. This gives to 
the mythology a ver^^ great value, inasmuch as it shows that 
the origin of totemism was in mythology, and the myths 
were the chief means of preserving the totems. The follow- 
ing classification of the myths is interesting on this account: 
1. There were myths about the animals which were regarded as ancestors 
which would make those animals very sacred to the clan, for they were 
repeated at the fireside and in the hearing of the children until they be- 
came as household words and the animal ancestors seemed reaUties. 
2. There were creation myths, which also perpetuated the same system, as the 
great creator or first ancestor, or culture hero, often bore an animal name 
and was represented under the animal semblance. 3. There were myths 
also which gave the idea of protection to the people, for they were full of 
marvelous exploits of the great animal who was regarded as the ancestor of 
the clan, or tribe, or village, or individual, and these exploits were a pledge 
■ of securitv to those who bore the totem or emblem, i. There were also 


myths which perpetuated the history of a tribe. Sometimes these myths-- 
carry the tribe back to their original home or starting place, and show 
how, when and where they received their first totems and how they changed 
them during their migration. 5. There were myths which showed the own-- 
ership that came from inheritance, as the totem of the individual or family 
was placed upon every utensil, weapon, keepsake and article of furniture 
that belonged to the individual, and became a kind of mono^jram. 0. There 
were myths perpetuated by the secret societies, which made known the 
migrations of the tribes and at the same time predicted the future state 
of the persons who were initiated. Among the Ojibwas, the first degree 
of the initiation was full of the symbols of creation, but; as the candidate 
went on through the different degrees the different animals which repre- 
sented the clan totems were found to guard the entrance. The bear spirit 
guarding the first degree, the wolf the second, etc. The candidate must 
pray and make offerings of tobacco that the spirits should drive the male- 
volent spirits away from the opening and that the entrance to the degree 
might be open to him. Serpent spirits were the evil manitous who opposed 
progress, but if the prayers and feasts were sufficient the largest serpent 
raised his body so as to form an arch so that the candidate might pass on 
his way while the four smaller serpents moved to either side of the path. 
In the second degree the candidate personated the bear spirit and was 
identified with the totem. 7. There were also myths concerning the "jour- 
ney of the soul " among certain tribes. These were very significant, and 
yet were connected with the totem system. 

Illustrations of these different kinds of myths might be 
given, but we shall content ourselves with a few of the picto- 
graphs which have been preserved, and the interpretations 
of them which have been furnished. 

Schoolcraft has spoken of some of the totems of the Dako- 
tas, and has given a plate-which is quite significant. On this 
we see, first, four "gods of the water," represented under the 
figure of animals (3, 4, 5 and 6) with lightning darting from 
their heads, with the principal god near them (7). In the 
picture the circle represents the sea which surrounds the 
earth. It has four passages (11) across it, representing 
the doors through which the gods go out into the world. 
The dotted line shows the migration route. Another picto- 
graph shows the god of the forest, under the figure of an 
owl (12) perched upon a tree; at the foot of the tree is the 
home of the "god;" on either side of him are the eagle and 
hawk (14), which are his guards or sentinels. One of the 
gods of thunder (15) is also represented, which is an enemy 
of the god of the forest. Another pictograph represents 
the six gods of the thunder, with thunderbolts in one hand 
and the rain falling from the other. The gods have square 
heads, with four points or peaks above the square to repre- 
sent the four quarters of the sky. Another picture represents 
the "goddess of war," with battle-ax in one hand and four 


rings on the arms. Above the figure is an arch representing 
the sky. These were the mythologic totems of the Dakotas. 
Those of the Iroquois can be seen on the "bark records." 

An interpretation of certain mythologic totems has also 
been given by Catlin. There were four articles of great ven- 
eration and importance. These were four sacks of water made 
from a buffalo's skin, sewed together in the form of a large 
tortoise. These four tortoises contained water from the four 
quarters of the world. Their principal actors were eight 
men, with the entire skins of buffalos thrown over their 
backs, the horns, hoofs and tails remaining on their bodies 
in a horizontal position, enabling them to imitate the actions 
of the buffalo, whilst they were looking out of its eyes as 
through a masque.' The bodies of these men were chiefly 
naked, and all painted in the most extraordinary manner, 
with the nicest adherence to exact similarity, their limbs, 
bodies and faces being in every part covered either with 
black, red or white paint. Each one of these strange char- 
acters had also a lock of buffalo's hair tied around his ankles — 
in his right hand a rattle, and a slender white rod or staff, 
six feet long, in the other, and carried on hi-s back a bunch 
of ereen willow bous^hs about the usual size of a bundle of 
straw. These eight men being divided into four pairs, took 
their positions on the four different sides of the curb or big 
canoe, representing thereby the four cardinal points; and 
between each group of them, with the back turned to the 
big canoe, was another figure, engaged in the same dance, 
keeping step with them, with a similar staff or wand in one 
hand and a rattle in the other, and (being four in number) 
answering again to the four cardinal points. The bodies of 
these four young men were chiefly naked, with no other 
dress upon them than a beautiful kilt around the waist, 
made of eagle quills and ermine, and very splendid head 
dresses made of the same materials. Two of these figures 
were painted entirely black, with pounded charcoal and 
greese, whom they called the "firmament, or night ;" and the 
numerous white spots which were dotted all over their bodies, 
they called "stars." The other two were painted from head 
to foot as red as vermilion could make them. These, they 
said, represented the day, and the white streaks which were 
painted up and down over their bodies, "ghosts which the 
morning rays were chasing away." 

III. This leads us to take up the classification of the 
totems. It will be understood that there were several kinds 

'The plate representing these may be seen in another part of this volume. 


of totems, all of which are suggestive of mythology, or at' 
least of relieious customs and superstitions. The following 
embraces nearly all classes and a description of the 
ofifices which they filled: First. The clan totem. This was 
generally received from the mother, though in the tribes 
that had' reached the patriarchal age, it was received from 
the father.' Second. The tribal totem, common to all the 
members of a tribe to the exclusion of other tribes. Third. 
The individual totem, belonging to an individual and not 
passing to his descendants. Fourth. The village totem, 
common to all the residents of the village, generally 
derived from the chief of the village. Fifth. The phratry 
totem, common to all the members of a phratry or sub-divis- 
ion of a tribe, and derived from some former tribal division. 
Sixth. The sub-gens totem, called by Fraser the split totem. 
Seventh. The mythologic^ totem. 

(i) "The clan totem was reverenced by a body of men and 
women who called themselves by the name of the totem, be- 
lieved themselves to be of one blood, descendants of a com- 
mon ancestor, bound together by common obligations to each 
other and by a common faith in the totem." 

The clansman is in the habit of assimilating himself to his totem by dressing 
in the skin or other part of the totem animal, arranging his hair and mutilating 
his body so as to resemble the totem, or representing the totem on his body by 
tattooing or paint. The belief was common among the Indians that they had 
an animal in their bodies. A clansman affixes a totem mark or signature to 
treaties and deeds, and paints and carves it on his weapons, canoes and tents. 
In death the clansman sought to become one with his totem, so he was buried 
with the clan and had the clan totem placed above hi.= grave ^ It was an article of 
faith that the clan sprang from a totem or animal ancestor and that each clan 
at death rejoined the ancestors, though whether they reassumed the animal 
shape is a question. 

Clan totems were prevalent among all the hunter tribes, and were the symbols 
or emblems of the clans or gentes which existed among them. They indicated 
a natural kinship and in a sense perpetuated the ancestral line exactly as the 
coat of arms in European countries perpetuates the family history and shows 
the ancestry of the peculiar household They were not, however, indicative of 
any individual exploits as the crests and symbols upon the family crests in 
ordinaiy heraldy were, but were strictly genealogical. There were symbols 

'It was about the oii'y totpin which was transmitted by inheritancft. All other 
totems ended with the individual or with tlie village, though the niythologic totem was 
transmitted by tradition from generation to generation, and gradually extended to 
other tribes. There was a sub-gens or totem sometimes called the split totem. 

-The myth of the " rabbit " as a " dawn god,'" contending with ti e brother is found 
among the'eastern tribes, Algonquin. Iroquois. Dakota, ami some of the tribes of the 
noKthwest. It reminds us of the Egyptian and Semitic story of the rabbit and the hare 
who WHtch for. the rising of the sun. .,..,,,-, cu » -.-„^ 

3 It was believed that there were four souls toevery individual. One of these hoverea 
near the body and gained access to it, anotlier perpetuated the personal existence among 
the animal ancestors. A third entered the spirit world as the result of the initiation, at 
the end of the crooked path. The fourth was indefinite, intangible, something like our 



which were reminders of the individual exploits but these were generally worn 
upon the person and constituted a part of his dress so that the warrior carried 
his personal history in his dress and personal ornamentations. ^ 

(2) The tribal totem is very conspicuous, but it is sometimes 
difficult to distinguish it from other totems. The following, 
however, will' aid us in tliis: The clan totem is generally local, 
and can be identified with the symbols which are held in com- 
mon with the clans. The dream totem is regarded as sacred, 
and is known only to the individual. The phratry totem is best 
known to the members of the phratry, which is an especial 
brotherhood among the tribes, but the tribal totem is distinctive 


of the entire tribe, niul may be seen throughout the habitat 
which the tribe fills. The following will illustrate this distinction: 

The Creek Indians were divided into twenty clans, all bearing animal names. 
The panther clan was prohibited from marrying a panther or a wildcat clan. 
The panther and wildcat clans formed together a phratry The Choctaws are 
divided into two phraties each of which consisted of four clans. The Ciyugas 
have two phratries of eight clans. The Moq'iis had ten phratries and twenty- 
three totem clans. Tha Thlinkeets divided into two clans, the raven and the 
wolf. One thing is noticeable about the naming of the clans. The most of 
them are named after animals which are numerous in the region where the 

' The symbols wliicli woro iisprl to indicate the Gentile descent or kinship, were in 
the shape of animals and showed that there was a superstition among the Indians which 
virtually introduced a kinship between the human boincs and the animals with which 
they were familiar, and upon wliich they subsisted The totem then was based upon the 
imasrinarv ancestry and was a si™ of the artificial brotherliood. This artihcial brotli- 
erhood was a remarkable inyention . .VU tlie members of a totem fraternity regard each 
other as kinsmen and brothers. Tlie totem bond is a stronger bond than the bond of 
blood or family. Tlie sacredness of the new kinship may be sliown by the laws of raar- 
riaee for persons of the same totem may not marry or haye intercourse with each other. 
This wa* exoKamy. In some tribes the prohibition extended to only a man s own totem 
clan. He could marry a woman of any totem liis own. In pth-r tribes the prohibi- 
tion extended to several clans. An oxogamus group of clans withm a tribe was calle;! 3 


clan, lived, or the clan habitat. The clans on the northwest coast bear the 
names of wolf, bear, eagle, whale, shark, hawk, sea lion, owl, salmon. Those 
in New York State bear the names of bear, wolf, turtle, heron and hawk: in 
the Gulf States, tortoise, wildcat, fish, alligator. Those of Arizona have the 
names of plants, while the Navajoes have the names of mountains, rivers, and 
very few animal names Mr. Fraser speaks of split totems. This is only 
indicative of a division of a clan which had a common name. It was very 
common among the Omahas, as there were two or three clans^ which had the 
buffalo for its totem, one called the black shoulder and the other the hanga. 

(3) There were "dream" totems. These belonged to 
individuals and did not pass to h\^ descendants. They were 
regarded as very sacred and were not often revealed. 

These individual totems were carried in a bag, called the 
"medicine bag. ' " It might be made of the skin of an animal, 
and contained various charms, such as precious stones and the 
heads of birds and animals. It was sometimes worn as an 
appendage to the wardrobe, sometimes »hi Jden under the 
dress and was difficult to be found. This " dream " totem 
was often identical with the initiatory totem, though there 
was generally something worn about the person which would 
be indicative of his dream, so that his totemistic kindred could 
easily recogniz2 him. 

The dress of a chief was made up generally of leggings, 
moccasins, headdress, necklace, shield, bow, quiver, lance, ^ 
tobacco sack, pipe, robe, belt, medicine bag, each one of 
which was covered with symbols which were suggestive of 
the tribe or clan to which he belonged, also, of the society 
into which he was initiated and especially of the exploits of 
which he boasted, but the medicine bag was generally 
emblematic of the animal which appeared in his dreams. 

(4) There were also mythologic totems. These have not 
been generall}' recognized, }'et they are important, for they 
perpetuate the "foundation" myths of each tribe, and remind 
us of the amount of mythologic literature which prevailed. 
They were in fact myth-bearers. They perpetuate the histor}- 
and genealogy of the tribe. These mythologic totems are 
widespread, though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish 

'The clan totem is used in the "winter counts" or tribal lists. "Winter counts" 
constitute a sort of record of tlio tribe or clan as they give the prominent events which 
occurred, in a sort of |)icture writing. Tlie Ogalala. roster, obtained of Rev. S. D. 
Hinman contains tlie picture of ditlV-rent individuals with their totem placed over the 
head, tlieir tattooing or painting on tlieir faces, the pipes and weapons in their hands, 
tlie various parts of the dress help to identify the perSDUS as much as if their names 
and history had been written. The pictorial census prepared under the direction of 
Red Cloud, chief of the Dakotas. also contains the totems of the persons who held 
allegiance to him as a chief. See Mallory"s Picture Writings — 

- Miss Alice Fletclier says : "These religious symbols are the most sacred personal 
possessions. Tliey are rarely inherited, being generally buried with the person. In a 
few cases a man would inherit the sacred symbol of his progenitor aud cany it with 
his own in his personal bag. "' See Report of Peabody Museum, Vol. III., p. 290. 

^ An illustration of this has beeu given by Catlin in connection with the portrait 
of "Rushing Eagle," who carried on his spear, shield aud headdress, emblems of his 
own personal history. 



them from the clan or tribal totems. As a general thing, 
we may say that the mythologic totem belongs to a group 
of tribes, ajid is prominent among the myths and symbols of 
nearly all the tribes which inhabit a certain district, and 


represents the being who is regarded as the great creator 
and progenitor of these tribes, as well as their culture hero 
and chief divinity. 

There are many specimens of mythologic totems, some of 
them found among the Eastern tribes, others among the tribes 
of the Interior, such as the Pueblos, but they are more numerous 

> These symbols were discovered by Mr. Lewis F. Gunckel in the valley of the Mc- 
Elmo and near the ancient cliff-dwellings. 


among the tribes of the Northwest. Among the Eastern tribes,, 
this* "totem" was generally represented by the gigantic rabbit, 
who was in reality the "Dawn God," but was sometimes by the 
turtle, which was identical with the earth goddess. Among the 
tribes cf the lar West, the mythologic totem was represented by 
the coyote, who was the great divinity of the California Indians. 
Among the tribes of the Interior, it was represented by the vari- 
ous animals which were supposed to preside over the "six celes- 
tial spaces," such as the bear, wolf, mountain lion, panther, eagle 
and mole, though among some of the tribes it was the mysteri- 
ous spider women. Among the mountain tribes, a being having 
the human form and human attributes, but adorned with orna- 
ments borrowed from the mountains, was the mythologic totem, 
as well as creator. The tribes of the northwest coast took their 
mythologic totems from the animals of the sea or the forest near 
which they dwelt, such as rhe whale, the wolf and the raven, 
though they mingled these with their human ancestry. 

Illustrations of these mythologic totems may be given from the various 
tribes. The Lenape or Delaware Indians were descended from their 
totems, the wolf, the turtle and the turkey. These were their clan totems 
because they were descended not from a common turtle but from the great 
orio-inal tortoise which bore the vi^orJd on its back at the time of creation. 
The story was that, the whole earth was submerged and but a few persons 
survived. They had taken refuge on the back of a turtle, which had reached 
so great an age that his shell was mossy: the turtle swam to a place where 
a spot of dry land was found. There the people settled and re-peopled the 
land. This is a tale of reconstruction and has been supposed to refer ta 
the deluge. It fitly represents the earth as land distinguished from water. 
The back of a turtle represents an island surrounded by water. 

Sometimes the mythologic totems were taken from the lo- 
calities in which the tribe had previously dwelt, but they relate 
to the time when they were created and can be carried back 
to the "creation myth." Such is the case with the Navajoes, 
who dwelt among the cliffs. The story is given by Dr. Wash- 
ington Matthews : 

."When the goddess Etsanetlehi went at the bidding of the sun, to 
live in the western ocean, and the divine brothers, the war gods, went to 
Thoyetli in the San Juan valley to dwell, Yolkai Estsan, the white shell 
woman, went alone into the San Juan mountains, and there she wandered 
around sadly for four days and four nights, constantly mourning her lonely 
condition, and thinking how people might be created to keep her company. 
On the morning of the fifth day the god Qustecyalci came to see her along 
with several other gods. These, after many ceremonies, created a human 
pair out of two ears of corn. The wind god gave to these the breath of 
life, the god of the white crystal gave them their minds, the grasshoppers 
gave them their voices. From these are descended th3 gens called the 
' House of the Dark Cliffs ' because the gods brought from these houses 
the corn from which the first pair was made." 

;* m/F^' 


Masked dancer dramatizing the eagle man— one of the mythological divinities of the 
Southern Mound-bujldors. It shows the manner of wearing the masks and feathers iu 
the war dance. 

Showing one of the totems of the Southern Mound-builders . 



Another version of the same story is as follows: 

" The goddeps of the west became the wife of the sun, but she deter- 
mined to make something of the human kind to keep her company. From 
her left side she made four persons who became the progenitors of one 
gens Qonagaiii; from 'her right side four, from whom came the gens of 
Kiaa'ni. In like manner, from her left breast she made the four ancestors 
of the gens of Co'citcini; from the right breast the ancestors of Bica'ni; 
from the middle of her chest the ancestors Qackligni, and from the middle 
of her back between the shoulders, the ancestors of Bicani." ^ 

The Haidas believe that long ago the raven took a cockle shell from the 
beach and married it. The cockle gave birth to a female child and from 
their union the Indians were produced. The California Indians, in whose 
mythology the coyote is a leading personage, are descended from coyotes. 
At first they walkod on all fours, then they began to have some members of 
the human body — one finger, one toe, one eye; then two fingers, two toes, 




and so on until they became perfect human beings. The Iroquois are 
descended from a turtle which developed into a man, though their chief 
divinity was a rabbit. Some of the tribes of Peru were descended from 
eagles, others from condors. The snake clan among the Moquis are de- 
scended from a woman who was married to a snake she saw in a fountain 
and who gave birth to snakes, though the great mother of the Moquis 
brought from the west nine clans in the form of deer, sand, water bears, 
hares, tobacco plants and seed grass. She planted them on the spot where 
their village now stands and transformed them on the spot into men who 
built the present Pueblos. The crane clan of the Ojibwas are descended 
from a pair of cranes which, after long wanderings, settled on the rajjids at 
the outlet of Lake Superior. The Osages who descended from a snail, the 
snail bursting its shell, developed into a fine large man who married a beaver 

IV. This leads us to consider the different methods of 
representing the totems. These were varied and numerous, 
but we may mention the following as the most important : 
(i) The habit of painting the totems on the tents and houses. 
This myth reminds us of the tattooing of the Haidas. 

' See Am. Folk-Lore, Vol. 3, No. 9, p. 95. 



(2) The method of dramatizing the totems in the sacred cer- 
emonies, especially those which took place at the time of 
initiatin^^ the braves into the secret societies ; (3) the cus- 
tom of carving the totem on the grave posts and genealogical 
trees ; (4) the method of writing them in the bark records or 
tribal lists of names; (5) the custom of erecting effigies of 
earth near their villages, making them represent their clan 


totems; (6) the habit of inscribing animal figures on rocks; 
(7) the habit of representing them on their copper plates, 
their pottery and pipes; (8) the habit of inscribing animal 
figures on shell gorgets and burying them in the graves with 
the dead — the latter custom showing that there was a to- 
temistic relation between the spirit of the dead and the 
supernatural world; (9) the custom of wearing masks as a 
sign of transformation; (10) the custom of tattooing. 

Illustrations of these different methods are numerous, a few of which 
are given in the cuts and plates. One of these represents the butfalo dance 


common among the Mandans. Another represents the animal figures seen 
by Catlin, painted upon the tents. Another represents the pottery vessel 
found in Arizona, made in the shape of a nondescript creature, partly ani- 
mal and partly human. Another represents the "effigies" which are com- 
mon in Wisconsin, another the "rock inscriptions" found near the cliff- 
dwellings. Still another represents the totems gathered about the bed of a 
Haida chief, as he lay in state in his tent. The plates represent the mytho- 
logic totems of the Southern Mound-builders. 

Catlin also speaks of wearing masks. He says one of the chief medicine 
men placed over his body the entire skin of a bear, with the war 
eagle's quill over his head, taking the lead in the dance, and looking 
through the skin which formed a masque which hung over his face. Many 
others in the dance wore masques on their faces, made of the skin from 
the bear's head; and al), with the motions of their hands, closely imitated 
the movements of that animal, some representing its motion when running, 
and others the peculiar attitude and hanging of the paws, when it is sitting 
up on its hind feet and looking out for the approach of an enemy. This 
grotesque and amusing masquerade of times is continued at intervals for 
several days. 

Mr. Catlin has given several pictures of the imitative mythologic 
dances celebrated among the Mandans. They illustrate the point, for in 
these dances the Indians are represented as assuming the attitudes of the 
different animals. [See plate.] 

In some of these dances, the attitudes of the animals whose totems we -e 
worn by the clans were imitated, and the spirits of the animals were sup- 
posed to have taken possession of the dancers. In the buffalo dance, the 
people imitated the various attitudes of the buffalo. In the wolf dance, 
the society of those who had supernatural communication with wolves 
were the dancers. They wore wolf skins, and paint the tips of their noses 
and their bodies, in imitation of the blue wolves, and dance in imitation 
of the actions of the wolves. In the grizzly bear dance, they pretend to be 
grizzly bears. Some wear the skins of grizzly bears, pushing their fingers 
in the claws, some wear necklaces of grizzly bear's claws. The 
ghost dance was one in which those who had supernatural com- 
munication with ghosts could partake. The sun dance has not been 
practiced by the Omabas, but is very common among the Ponkas. 

Illustrations of other methods of representing totems may 
be given from the various tribes. 

We take the Omahas first, for the totems of this tribe have been 
studied extensively. Mr. J. O. Dorsey is our authority. The Omahas 
were a branch of the great Siouan stock which at an ancient date jour- 
neyed down the Ohio river and scattered over the region west of the Mis- 
sissippi. The Omahas, Ponkas, Osages and Kansas went up the Missouri 
river. The Winnebagos, lowas, Ottoes and Missouri belong to the same 
stock, though these tribes were scattered along the Mississippi river from 
the Wisconsin to the St. Francis river. The Omaha tribal organization was 
different from that of many other tribes. The kinship seems to determine 
the position of the men. Three classes were recognized in civil affairs : 
the chief, who exercised legislative, executive and judicial functions; 


second, the braves who were servants and messengers of the chiefs; third, 
the young men and common people. The chiefs only had a voice in the 
tribal assembly, but in this assembly the civil and religious affairs were not 
separated. Besides the chiefs proper were the seven keepers of the pipe of 
peace and the three keepers of the sacred tents. The tribal circle of the 
Omahas was in the form of a horse-shoe. In this circle the gentes took 
their regular places divided by the road which passed through the center of 
the circle, five gentes on the right side and' five on the left. There were 
special areas for the gentes and subgentes. The three sacred tents were 
pitched within the circle on the right side, the war tent was near the gate- 
way of the circle. The pipes were distributed among the different gentes, 
the eagles. The following are the names of the gentes and their location, 
symbols, offices, special missions and characteristics : (a) The elk had 
their tent pitched at the right side of the gateway at one of the horns of 
the circle, the sacred tent consecrated to war and the sacred bag which 
held the feathers and skin of the sacred bird or war eagle, also the tribal 
war pipe and the tobacco pouch and the sacred clam shell, which was the 
emblem of the divinity which led the people in their migrations. This 
clam shell was in ancient days carried on the back of a youth, wrapped in 
a buffalo hide. It was never placed on the ground but was hung on a 
cedar stick when the tribe were encamped. Their mission was to give the* 
alarm in case of attack and to hold the sacred pipe toward the sky when 
the first thunder was heard in the spring and to worship the thunder god. 
They were not permitted to touch or eat any of the flesh of the elk. Sacred 
names were given to the boys, names taken from different parts of the 
horns of the elk. The style of weaiing the hair was in imitation of the 
elk's horns; the hair near the forehead stood erect, that back of it was 
brushed forward, (b) The black shoulder gens was next to that of the elk. 
Their ancestors, the " inke saba," were buffaloes, and dwelt under the sur- 
face of the water. When they came out of the water they snuffed at the 
four winds and prayed to them. They were accustomed to wrap their dead 
in a buffalo robe with the hair out, and also to decorate the outside of their 
tent with a circle in which was painted a buffalo head, and above it a pipe 
ornamented with eagle feathers. The style of wearing the hair with the 
boys was to leave two tufts to imitate the horns of the buffalo and a fringe 
all around the head and to shave the rest of the head. They could not eat 
the buffalo tongues and were not allowed to touch a buffalo head. There 
is a myth connected with this custom. One day a principal man was fast- 
ing and praying to the sun god, when he saw the ghost of a buffalo rising 
out of a spring, (c) Next to this was the Hanga gens, which means ances- 
tral. They were called the clear sky makers, and the myth is that they 
also were buffaloes and dwelt beneath the water, but they used to move 
along with their heads bowed and their eyes closed, but when thoy came 
out of the water they lifted their heads and saw the blue sky for the first 
time. The sacred pole and two sacred tents belonged to this gens. The 
decoration of the tents was a cornstalk on each side of the entrance and 
one at the back of the tent. Within one of the sacred tents was the skin 

*The Omahas onco dwelt near St. Louis, but acconipanied by the Ponkas and the 
low as thoy misratnd in stajfos through Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, till they reached 
tluMioigliborhood of the Rod Pii)ost.()no quarry. Tliis must have taken many years, as 
their course was marked by a succession of villages consisting of earth lodges. 


of a white buffalo cow. The style of wearing the hair was to imitate the 
back of the buffalo, a crest of hair about two inches long extending from 
ear to ear. (d) The fourth place in the tribal circle belonged to the black 
bear recently called the Katadah gens. The tent was decorated at the top 
with a circle painted blue to represent the bear's cave. Below this four 
zigzag lines to represent different kinds of thunders; below this the prints 
of bear's paws. The style of wearing the hair was to leave four short 
blocks on the head. A subgens is called " the blackbird people." Their 
style of wearing the hair is to leave a little hair in front for bill and some at 
the back of the head for the tail and a block over each ear for the wings. 
Another subgens called the turtle, cut off all the hair from a boy's head 
except six blocks, two on each side, one over the forehead and one down 
the back. The Kansas gens was next in the circle. They were the wind 
people. They fl^p their blankets to start a breeze which would drive off 
mosquitos. Next to the Kansas are the earth lodge makers, Man cin-ka-gaxe, 
though they call themselves the wolf people. They carried sacred stones, 
black, red, yellow, blue, which were the same colors as those of the light- 
ning on the tent of the bear gens. The boys have two blocks of hah- left on 
their heads, one over their foreheads and another oq the crown, perhaps to 
imitate the head and tail of a wolf. 

The next is the buffalo tail gens. They wear their hair in a ridge, which 
stretches from the front to the back of the head, perhaps to imitate a buf- 
falo's bade. They cannot touch a buffalo head. Next to this were the 
deer head gens. They cannot touch any deer skin, or even use moccasins 
or the fat of a deer, but can eat the flesh of the deer. The keepers of the 
sacred pipe were a little apart from the rest. There was a ceremony at 
birth, in which a child's back was marked with red spots in imitation of a 
fawn, and all the deer head people make spots on their chest about the size 
of a hand. The next in the circle was the Ingcejide. They do not eat a 
buffalo calf, but paint the body of a buffalo calf on each side the entrance 
to their tents. The Ictaeanda gens, ths reptile i)eople, were next in the 
circle. They do not touch worms, snakes, toads, frogs, or any other kind 
of reptiles. The children were taken to the man who filled the sacred 
pipes, who would cut off one lock about the length of a finger, and tie it up 
and put it in a sacred buffalo hide. He would then put the little moccasins 
on the child, who was to wear them for the first time, turn him around, four 
times, and then say to him, " May your feet rest for a long time on the 

We see from this description that the totem system was a very important 
factor in the clan life of the Omahas. It not only gave the name of animals 
to the clans, but made the flesh of those animals sacred, or taboo to the 
clans. It also controlled the position of the tents of each clan, and even 
the decoration and a part of the furnishing of the tents. It came into the 
tent and directed the ceremonies at the birth of children, placed its mark 
upon the body of the child. The cutting of the hair of the child was 
totemistic, symbolical of the peculiarities of the clan totem. The duty and 
mission of the clan leaders was to carry the sacred pipes in their tents. 
These pipes correspond to the "sacred shells" of the Ojibwas, the 'sacred 
bundles" of the Pawnees, and the "sacred boxes" of the Cherokees. 


V. A few words as to the survival of the system may be ap- 
propriate here. 

Animal figures were common among the early nations of 
Europe, and may have come from a primitive totemism. It is 
said that the Danes had animal figures painted upon their ban- 
ners when they invaded England. The Norsemen carried shields 
with animal semblances inscribed upon them, and the Sea Kings 
navigated the Northern Ocean in boats, the prow of which was 
made in the shape of an animal, the seipent or dragon being the 
most common form. They placed their shields upon the sides 
of the boats, perhaps to represent the scales. The Chinese bear, 
to thi.s day, a dragon flag, as the emblem to their national power, 
and carve its head upon the corners of the roof of their houses. 
The Japanese take the stork as their favorite ornament or em- 
blem, while the Coreans place the tiger on their national es- 
cutcheon. Siam has the white elephant, and the people of 
Benares, the common elephant, for their "coat of arms." 

The ancient nations used animal figures as symbols of power. 
They are seen upon their coins and upon their seals, and are 
always significant. 

There are animal-headed divinities in Egypt, Assyria and 
India, which remind us of the totems of America, the connecting 
link being found in the grotesque figures described by Bartram 
as being common among the Muscogees and other tribes formerly 
inhabiting the Gulf States He says, in describing the "council 
house" of the Cherokces : 

There was a secluded place designed as a sanctuary, dedicated to relig- 
ion, or rather priestcraft, for here are deposited all the sacred things, such 
as the " medicine pot" rattles, chaplets of deer's hoofs, and other apparatus 
of conjuration, and likewise the Calumet, the great "pipe of peace," the 
imperial standard, made of the tail-feathers of the white eagle, hugely 
formed and displayed like an open fan on a scepter or staff, as white and 
clean as possible when displayed for peace, but when for war the feathers 
were painted or tinged with vermilion. The pillars and walls of the houses 
of the square are decorated with various paintings and sculptures, which 
are supposed to be historic or legendary of political and sacerdotal affairs. 
They are extremely picturesque, but some are ludicrous, as men in a variety 
of attitudes have the head of some kind of animal, such as those of the 
duck, turkey, bear, fox, wolf, and deer; and again, those kinds of creatures 
are represented as having human heads. These designs are not illy exe- 
cuted, for the outlines are free, bold, and well proportioned. The pillars 
supporting the front, or piazza of the council house of the square are in- 
geniously formed in the likeness of vast speckled serpents ^ ascending up- 
wards, the Atasses being of the snake family or tribe. 

Carvings of the Polynesians also contain animal figures. They 

• These serpent pillars remind us of the serpent columns which have been describe d 
by W. H Holmes as situated upon the summit of the pyramid, as found at Chichen 
Itsa, in Yucatan, arranged so as to guard the entrance of the temple of the sun, situated 
upon the summit of the pyramid. 


may have borrowed their symboHsm from the inhabitants of the 
islands of the Pacific and of the Asiatic coast and so have devel- 
oped an cntirel}' different type from that which prevailed among 
the tribes on the eastern side of the mountains. The pillars and 
columns of the Nahaus do, however, resemble the totem posts 
or pillars of the Thlinkeets. They are much more elaborate, but 
are characterized by being built in stories. They have also hu- 
man forms, which are grotesque and complicated and unique. 
We are reminded by these characteristics of the many storied 
towers of India aud the grotesque carving of the Chinese. 

The hieorglyphics on these pillars or columns are very elabo- 
rate. They are not pictures and cannot well be traced back to 
any picture writing. Their source of development or of growth may 
probably be traced across the ocean and not back into the inte- 
rior. We certainly lose the thread when we go to the east. We 
are not sure that we hold it when we go to the west. We think 
we see fragments of it at the north, but we are not sure but that 
these are the ends of two threads and not the fragments of a 
broken line. 

There are, however, three or four grades of symbolism 
on this western or Pacific coast; the first in Washing-ton Ter- 
ritory, the second in Mexico, the third in Yucatan and possibly 
a fourth in South America. There is, however, this peculiarity 
in the symbols of all these localities that animal figures are ap- 
parent in all totemism, having been perpetuated through the 
different grades. There are many symbolic carved sun col- 
umns; but they seen to be as closely connected with 
a primitive animal worship as are the monuments of 
other regions. They remind us of the fact that totem- 
ism was not entirely lost, even if sun worship had come in 
and overshadowed it. We may say that in this region including 
all of Central America and Mexico, there was a great mixture 
of symbolism. Animal figures, human forms, and sun symbols 
are strangely blended and it is difficult to distinguish the animal 
totems from the sun symbols. *We notice, also, that animal fig- 
ures are conspicuous in the Codices, see Plate III. These repre- 
sent the images which were carried at their festivals and are sym- 
bolic of the seasons, yet may be connected with the primitive 
totemism in the Northern district. 

Here carved statues and pillars are called totem posts, but 
they present more human figures than they do animal. There 
are here many paintings and drawings which are symbolic and 
the totems of the tribes are sometimes expressed in these; but 
the most conspicuous symbols are those which are contained in 
these ancestor trees. The analysis of these carved posts reveals 
to us one fact, that the family genealogy is expressed in the hu- 
man figures, but the clan totem is sho wn by the animal semblan- 

*See, contributions to American Archeology. Vol. V. 



P^orr: f/yoCo N Y 




ces. One can easily see that toteniism is at the basis of a!l the 
symboHc figures which are contained in these columns. We 
present a few specimens of totem posts from the northwest coast. 
See Figs. 14, 15, 16 and 17. 


There are many such totem posts in which the thunder bird is 
conspicuous. Totemism seems to have been modified and min- 
gled with a genealogical record. Tlie bird represents the first 
great ancestor. The human figures represent the later progeni- 
tors. The animals represent the clan, the human figures the 



f;imil}'. They call the figure at the top the " thunder bird," but 
it is not so much a nature divinity as it is a tribal God. If it per- 
sonifies the thunder or any power of nature it at the same 

time represents the ani- 
mal divinity. See Fig. 1 5. 
The bear is also a totem 
and this animal is some- 
times carved on the to- 
tem posts and some- 
times painted on boards 
or woven into blankets. 
There is a picture of a 
chief* lying in state, in 
which there are blankets 
with bears woven in them 
on the bed, the image 
of a stuffed bear is beside 
the bed, the same or 
similar figures are seen 
ornamenting the walls 
abo\'e the bed and every 
where in the room are 
animal semblances. 
These were undoubted- 
ly the symbols which 
Fig. X5.-THE THUNDER BIRD. exprcsscd the tribal con- 

nection of the chief. They show the clan emblems as well as the 
personal totem of the chief. 

It seems to have been a peculiarity of the people of the north- 
west coast, that they symbolized their clan history by animal 
figures, but their family history by human figures. We do not 
know that they were very different from the other American 
tribes except in this. It is however probable they were older or 
at least had continued their tribal existence longer than man}' of 
the tribes farther east. 

There were certain tribes, such as the Dacotahs, who had al- 
most reached the same stage that these had. It appears fi'om the 
researches of ethnologists, and notably those of Rev. J. O. Dor- 
sey, that the Dacotahs had not onl}- tribes and clans, but sub- 
clans, as if they were approximating to the condition where the 
family would be recognized as constituting a separate line. In 
these tribes the mother-right had disappeared, and the father had 
come to take the place of the mother in giving the name and in- 
heritance to the clan. We need only to carry the subject a little 
further, to see how tribes like those on the northwest coast might 
set up the family name and genealogy as still more important 
than the clan name and seek to symbolize this fact by their to- 
*See Century Magazine — also West Shore for 1881 . 



terns. In this way we might suppose that a people would easily- 
pass out tiom animal worship to ancestor worship, the first hav- 
ing been correlated to the clan, and the last to the family. The 
totem posts of the northwest coast are suggestive objects for our 
study on this account. These were always expressive of the 
family honor and the family history, but they suggested at the 
same time the clan system, the family name being symbolized by 
the human figures and the clan by the animal, as we have said. 
There is one point further in this connection. These tribes of 
the northwest coast were undoubtedly descended from the tribes 
of the northeast coast of Asia. Their totem system is to be 
studied in connection with the Asiatic tribes. We know that the 
peculiarity of Mongolian races, and especially of the Chinese is 
that they were given to ancestor worship. The same is true of 
the tribes situated north of the Chinese wall, such as the Samoy- 
edes, Tungus, and Ostyaks; ancestor worship was very common 
among them. We may suppose that the American tribes on the 
northwest coast derived their system from the same source. We 
find in the totem posts, not only the record of the tribal history, 
but we may trace in them hints as to their line of migration. These 
tribes undoubtedly had passed through the various stages of ani- 
mal worship, and reached the early stage of ancestor worship. 

They, however, retained the symbols of both 
systems in these carved posts, and so we have 
in them a book which we may read as full of 

The cuts which we present \v\\\ illustrate 
the point, it will be noticed that quite a 
difference exists between these totem posts. 
The smaller figures however represent the 
posts which were erected inside of the house 
while the larger figures represent those which 
are on the outside of the house. In reference 
to the former Rev. M. Eells says, gener- 
ally these sticks arc posts which are used 
to support the roof of their feast houses, but 
sometimes are in private houses, and occa- 
sionally are placed near the head of the bed, 
as protectors. See Figs. i6and 17. These rep- 
resent posts which are set on large cross beams 
to support the ridge pole, in a large communal 
house. No. 16 having been unveiled with great 
ceremony. (In the engravings the black por- 
tions represent red, the horizontal shading 
blue, and the vertical black. The unshaded 
portions represent white paint.) Figure 18 was a board in an- 
other large house, where several hundred Indians gathered for a 
week's festival. At this time a few persons gave to their invited 

Figs 16 and 17. 



friends several hundred dollars in money and other valuable 
things and it was said that the spirit which dwelt in it really 
gave away the presents. The principle of idolatry was in all 

this superstition 
but still the sticks 
were of s u c h ; a 
shape that they 
could not properly 
be called idols. 1 
had been here for 
years before I saw 
what could be called 
by this name and 
have never seen but 
this one. As I vis- 
ited them at one of| 
their religious 
gatherings in 1878 I saw Fig. 
19, which represents a past] 
about four feet long, roughly 
carved, with the face and body 
of a man, but with no legs orl 
feet, the lower part being set 
into the ground and around 
this they performed the;r in- 
cantations. The eyes were 
silver quarter dollars nailed to 
it, and at the time it had no 
clothes on except a necktie of j 
red cloth, white cloth and 
beaten cedar bark. It is said 
FiR. 19. to have been made by the fath- 
er of a very old man and was kept secreted 
in the woods when not wanted. I saw it 
several times after they were done with 
their performance, and the Indians will- 
ingly allowed me to make a drawing of it. It has since been 
carried off to the woods again. 

There are many such figures among the tribes of the North- 
west coast. We present a figure, see Fig. 20, which came from 
this region. Very little is known concerning it. It is described 
in one of the Smithsonian Catalogues. It, however, probably 
represents a totem or a genealogical record of some private per- 
son. It will be noticed in this post that the animal totems are 
quite distinct from the human image. Crocodiles are here the 
tribal totems, but the knife-feathered image is the totem or em- 
blem of the family. 

VI. This leads us to another part of our subject, the modifi- 



cation of the totem system. We have traced the growth of the 
system from the primitive picture-writing, in which animals 
were conspicuous, and have found that totemism and s}'mboHsm 
began at about the same stage. It was not used by the fishermen 
but came into vogue among fhe hunter races; it continued among 
these races going through the different stages of growth until 
it finally reached a stage where ancestor worship came in to mod- 
ify it. It is noticeable, however, that totemism continued among 
the agricultural tribes, and to a certain extent among the Pueblos 
or village Indians. 

It is probable that a modified form oftotemism existed among 
the civilized races, but the symbols among them became changed. 
There are, to be sure, many animal figures among these sym- 
bols but along with these figures certain symbols which are 
significant of a primitive stage of sun worship and others 
which are significant of a primitive ancestor worship and 
so on until we come to the elaborate and complicated sym- 
bols of the civilized races. The modification of the totems is then 
an' important point for us to study because we may find in it a 
history of the changes through which native society in America 
passed, and may possibly trace the line of their migrations. This 
is a task which the Archaeologists must set before themselves. 
We have said that totemism was characteristic of hunter races 
mainly, and that it was confined to a certain stage of society, 
that stage which is represented by the term animal worship. 
We, however, have taken the position that the totem system was 
perpetuated in ancestor worship. To reconcile these two points 
we must consider that there were modifications of the totem sys- 
tem. These modifications may be seen, ist. In the adornments 
and decorations which were common among the native tribes, 
especially at their feasts and religious ceremonies. 2d, In the 
carved pipes and other figures which prevailed among the Mound 
Builders. 3d, In the fetiches and prey gods of the Zunis, 
4th, In the effigies which we trace in the emblematic mounds. 
5th, In the combination of animal figures and human forms, which 
we have seen in the genealogical trees. 6th, In the various myths 
and traditions which clustered about the heroes, ancestors and 
prehistoric divinities. 7th, In the superstitions which prevailed 
in reference to certain haunted places, especially those where a 
resemblance to animals was recognized in the forms of nature. 

The first modification which we shall consider is that which 
appeared in the personal adornments, decorations, and habili- 
ments of the natives. It is a remarkable fact that there was not 
only a symbolism in these adornments, but that the personal 
names and exploits, and tribal connection, were thus symbolized; 
in other words, that totemism was embodied in the official cos- 

Animals are frequently seen suspended to the dress or hair of 



the chiefs and especially of the medicine men. See Fig. 21. 
The significance of this is that the totem system was symbohzed 
but in a modified form. *There are many pictures which show how 
totemism could be expressed in the personal adornments. The 


picture of the medicine man is familiar. In this picture, how 

*The cuts which we have present'd do not fully illustrate the sulject; other cuts 
may be found in the Smithsonian Report for iSSl. p. 540, Figs. 9, 10 and 14. Also 
American Xaturali.'-t, July 1S85, p. 676, March 1SS5, ]). 2S1. Lubbock's Origin o 
Civilization, p. 33, Fig. 5, and page 39, Fig. Ii. Second Annual Report of the 
Ethnological Bureau, p. 12, plate I, p. 16, \A. II, p. 20 pi. Ill, ]\ 24, pi I\', p. 26. 
pi. V, p. 27, pi. VI, p. 28, pi. VII, p. 29, pi. Vni, p. 30, pi. IX, p. 40, 111. X, p. 
41, pi. XI, p. 60, pi. XIV, p. 64, pi. XV, pps. 155—163; p. 302. pi. LXXVI; p. 
395> ^''g^- 566-569; p.* 596, Figs. 570-572. Author s book on Eblematic Mounds, 
also Picture Writing. Catlin's North American Indians, p. 40. Fig. 19; p. 128, Fig. 





ever, we have hints as to how animal totems might be used 
without being strictly tribal emblems. The coat of arms 
of the tribe seem here to have been worn by one man. 
The clan emblems hang to this person in great profusion. 
There was an appeal to the superstition of the people in this 
manner of dressing himself up. The Medicine Man seems 
to have represented the great divinity and ancestor of the 
people, the wolf He seems to have had a power or control 
over the other clan divinities, the tortoise, the lizzard, the 
eel, the serpent, the eagle and many other animals. The 
same Medicine Man would get into his tent and throw out 
through the roof, emblems of the tribal divinities, he would imi- 
itate with his voice the cry of the different animals and would 
finally end his ceremony by declaring the advent of the chief 
divinity, imitating the voice of the particular animal, with a 
tone of triumph, as if the contest between the tribal gods had 
ended. There was, however, in this ceremony the modification 
of the totem system for the animals seem to personify the differ- 
erent elements of nature as well as the tribal divinities. It was 
an object lesson preparing the people for a higher stage of nature 
worship and yet the animal emblems are all retained. 

Another modification is found in pipes and pottery. See Plate 
IV and V. These were partly totemic and partly decorative, 
that is theyl^were expressive of the tribal name, but were also cre- 
ations of fancy and were subject to a great variety of forms. On 
this point we quote Mr. H. M. Henshaw. He says, with reference 
to the origin of these animal sculptures: *" Many writers appear 
inclined to the view that they are purely decorative and orna- 
mental in character, /, c, that they are attempts at close imita- 
tions of nature in the sense demanded by high art, and that they 
owe their origin to the artistic instinct alone. But there is much 
in their appearance that suggests that they may have been totem- 
ic in their origin, and that whatever of ornamental character they 
may possess is of secondary importance. With perhaps, few ex- 
ceptions, the North American tribes practiced totemism in one 
or the other of its various forms, and, although, it by no means 
follows that all the carving and etchings of birds or animals by 
these tribes are totems, yet it is undoubtedly true that the to- 

56; p. 234, Fig. 98. Dorman's Primitive Superstitions, p. 83, Fig. I; p, 84, Fig. 2; 
p. 85, Fig. 3; p. 86, pi. II; p. 127, Fig. 9; p. 288, pi. IV; p. 272, Fig. 13; p. 323, 
^'g- I9'> P- 362, pi. V. Documentary History of New York, Vol. I. p. 7, Figs H, 
I, M, O, K; p. 9, inset. The Indian Tribes of the United States, by F. S. Drake,, 
lory's Sign Language, y. 372, Fig. 164; p. 4.22, Fig. 249 Yarrow's Mortuary Cos. 
tumes. Figure, XLVI, Squier's Nicaragua, p. 36, pi. I; p. 39, pi. Ill; p. 54, Nos. 
2 and 3; p. 63, Nos. 11 and 12. Bancroft's Native Races. Vol. V, p. 40, Figs, i 
and 2; p. 42, Figs. 3 and 4; p. 43, Fig. 5; p. 46, Fig. 9; p. 49, Fig, i; p. 50. 

*See Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, page 150. — The plates 
in this chapter were taken from this report. 



Fin. v,r,"i 


Fig. 370 




temic idea is traceable in no small majority of their artistic rep- 
resentations, whatever their form. As favoring the idea of the 
totemic meaning of the carvings, it may be pointed out that a 
considerable number of recognizable birds and animals are pre- 
cisely the ones known to have been used as totems by many 
tribes of Indians. The hawk, heron, woodpecker, crow, beaver, 
otter, wildcat, squirrel, rattle snake, and others, have all figured 
largely in the totemic divisions of our North American Indians. 

"Their sacred nature, too, would enable us to understand how 
naturally pipes would be selected as the medium for totemic rep- 
resentations. It is also known to be a custom among Indian 
tribes, for individuals to carve out or etch their totems upon wea- 
pons and implements of the more important and highly prized 
class, and a variety of ideas, superstitions and others are associa- 
ted with the usages, as for instance in the case of weapons of 
war or implements of the chase, to impart greater efficiency to 
them. The etching would also serve as a mark of ownership, 
especially where property of certain kinds was regarded as be- 
longing to the tribe or gens and not the individual. Often, in- 
deed, in the latter case the individual used the totems of 
his gens instead of the symbol or mark for his own name. 

"As a theory to account for the number and character of these 
animal carvings the totemic theory is perhaps as tenable as any. 
The origin and significance of the carvings may, however, in- 
volve many different and distinct ideas. It is certain that it is a 
common practice of Indians to endeavor to perpetuate the image 
of any strange bird or beast, especially when seen away from 
home, and in order that it may be shown to his friends. What 
are deemed the marvelous features of the animal are almost al- 
ways greatly exaggerated. It is m this way that many of the 
astonishing productions noticeable in savage art have originated. 

Another modification of the totem system is that which is 
found among the Zunis. These remarkable people have a fe- 
tichistic religion and at the same time are sun worshippers. The 
fetiches perpetuate the animal divinities, but their sun worship 
absorbed and supplanted totemism. The Zunis had many fetiches; 
these were generally representatives of the operations of nature; 
they seem to have dominion over the different elements. See 
Plate VI. The Zunis divided the earth into six regions, the 
north, west, south, east, the upper region and the lower regions 
and ascribed a divinity to each one of these regions. These divin- 
ities were all animals, but they were animals of different kinds, 
the wolf being the God of the east, the bear the God of the west, 
the badger the God of the south, the mountain lion the God of 
the north, the eagle the God of the upper regions, and the 
mole the God of the lower regions. They personified the pow- 
ers of nature but they did this as much by their color and by their 
peculiar adornments as by their animal form. They were ani- 



V V\ \ 




mal divinities; they were not tribal Gods so much as they were 
nature Gods. They neither represented the tribal names or the 
tribal history, but they symbolized the divinity which ruled in 
the different parts of the sky. Each one of these animals was rep- 
resented by an image, the image however, always had the color 
which was peculiar to the sky, the God of the north being yel- 
low, that of the west blue, that of the south red, that of the east 
white, that of the upper regions all colors, and that of the lower 
regions, black. These colors are used in the pictographs, and in 
all the mythic symbolism of the Zunis to indicate the regions 
referred to above. We cannot fail to see in this, clear reference 
to the natural colors of the regions ; the barren north with its 
auroral hues, the west with its blue Pacific, the rosy south, the 
white daylight of the east, the many hues of the clouded sky, and 
the black darkness of the holes and caves of the earth. Among 
the Zunis there were different classes of animal divinities, three 
of them being especially prominent. They are: 1st, the Gods 
of the six regions referred to above ; 2d, the prey Gods or the 
fetiches of the hunt, and 3d, the Gods of the priesthood of the 
bow. These were all worshiped and were symbolized with great 
care, every part of the image or of the painting being expressive 
of the attributes of the divinity and some particular phase of na- 
ture. Sometimes the idols were trigged up with various flint 
weapons such as arrow-heads and spear-heads or with shell 
beads, the arrow-heads and beads always having a symbolic sig- 
nificance, the position of the flint, whether on the back or side 
or belly of the animal being in itself .symbolic, and the color of 

the beads and flints being 

also expressive. Some- 
times the animals were 
painted on a .shield, and 
the shield was decorated 
with feathers and covered 
with various figures. A 
winged creature is fre- 
quently .seen on the shield, 
the wino-s being attached 
to a human form, but the 
animal divinities are al- 
ways seen accompanying 
this nondescript figure. 
Two pictures of the fetich- 
es of the priesthood of the 
bow are given by Mr, F 


H. Gushing in his interesting description of the Zuni fetiches. 
These pictures are in different colors, to represent the earth 
and sky and water; one of them has a winged human form 
in its centre, a crooked serpent below the feet, and a moun- 


tain lion on either side. *"This curious god is the hero of hun- 
dreds of folk-lore-tales arid' the tutelar divinity of several of the 
societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a hu- 
man form, furnished with two flint knifes, feathered pinions 
and a knife-feathered tail. His dress consists of the conven- 
tional terraced cap representative of his dwelling place among the 
clouds, and the ornaments, badges and garments of the Ka-Ka. 
His weapons are the Great Flint Knife of War, the Bow of the 
Skies, (the Rain Bow), and the arrow of Lightning; and his guard- 
ians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the north and 
that ofthe upper regions. He was doubtless the original War- 
God of the Zunis, although now secondary in the order of man, 
to the two children of the .Sun mentioned." See Fig. 21. "These 
fetiches are constantly carried by the warriors when abroad, in 
pouches like those of the hunters, and in a similar manner. The 
perfect fetich of this order differs but little from those ofthe Hunt- 
ers save that it is more elaborate and is sometimes supplied with 
a minute heart of turkois bound to the side ofthe figure with 
sinew of the Mountain Lion, with which, also the arrow-point is 
probably attached, usually to the back or belly. 

" The arrow point when placed on the back of the fetich is 
emblematic ofthe Knife of War, (Sa-wa-ni-k'ia a-tchi-cn-ne,) and 
is supposed, through the power of Sa-wa-ni-k'ia or the "magic 
medicine of war" to protect the wearer from the enemy from 
behind or from other unexpected quarters. When placed "under 
the feet" or belly, it is through the same power, considered cap- 
able of effacing the tracks of the warrior that his trail may not 
be followed b}' the enemy." 

The other picture is that of a shield with an eagle in the cen- 
tre, the serpents below the eagle with a white bear above. This 
is the great white bear. The three beings which constitute 
the prey-Gods of the priesthood of the bow are the Moun- 
tain Lion, the great white bear and the knife-feathered monster. 
These are the war gods, as the others are the hunter gods. 

In reference to the worship of animals it naturally follows from 
the Zuni philosophy of life that his worship, while directed to the 
more mysterious and remote powers of nature, or as he regards 
their existence, should relate more especially to the animals; 
that in fact, the animals, as more nearly related to himself than 
are these powers, should be frequenth' made to serve as media- 
tors between them and him. 

The color of the stone was symbolic as well as the shape, 
the four parts of the sky ^\■erc supposed to have different colors , 
the north was yellow; the east, white; the south, red; the west, 

*Second annual Report of the IJurcau of Ethnology, pp^. 40 and 41. 

In reference to ¥\g. 20, Dr. Charles Ran says: It is of Makah or Haidah charac- 
ter; original not in the National Museum; drawings made by Mr. .Swan. It is entitled 
Figure on a plank, supporting roof poles of lodge at Chiloweyuck Depot, 


blue; the upper regions, many colored; the lower regions, black, 
accordingly the divinities which presided over these regions 
had colors which corresponded: See Plate VI.* 

In this plate we have Fig. I, Mountain Lion, God of the north 
— (yellow). Fig. 2. the Coyote, which is the God of the west — 
(blue). Fig. 3. the Wildcat, which is the God ot the south — (red). 
Fig. 4. The Eagle, which is the God of the upper regions — ■ 
(spotted). Fig. 5. The Mole, which is the God of the lower 
regions — (black). 

The ornaments or equipments in the fetiches are also symbol- 
ic. Ordinarially the Gods of the hunt, that is, those which pre- 
sided over hunters and were supposed to direct them to the game, 
were furnished with the arrow heads, while the prey Gods, 
Avhich represented the game which was to be slain and consum- 
ed, were frequently without the arrow heads. It was supposed 
that the animals of prey had a magical influence over the ani- 
mals they preyed upon, and breathed upon them whether near 
or far and never failed to overcome them, piercing their hearts 
and causing their limbs to stiffen, and the animals to lose their 

*In this plate ^\'e have the different fetichet, but the color ii not represented in the 

For further information on the totem system, sec Morgan's Ancient Society, 
Schoolcraft's Archives, Lubbock's Origin of Civilization, Mallory's Sign Language, 
Mftllory's Dacotah Calendar, Brinton's Hero Myths, Bancroft's Myths and Lan- 
guages, Hale's Iroquois Book of Rites, Valentini's Essays published by the Ameri- 
can Antiquarian Society, David Cusick's Six Nations, The Documentary History of 
New York, Vol. I. 




One of the most interesting and suggestive topics for archaeol- 
ogists to consider is the serpent symbol. The interest is owing 
to the fact that it prevails so extensively. No symbol is more 
common in oriental countries and few symbols are more 
prominent in this country. The study of it, however, is attended 
with some difficulties. The very fact that it prevails so exten- 
sively gives rise to many enquiries. The student is quite likely 
to be diverted from the careful investigation by the number of 
enquiries which arise as l:e progresses with the subject. The 
problems become so nunicrous and difficult that he feels almost 
burdened with the importance of the subject. The fact that so 
much curiosity is awakened and so many enquirers wait upon him 
for results, has however a tendency to urge him forward. 

The serpent is as conspicuous in prehistoric as in historic 
times, and the task before us is to explain how and why this 
was the case. We find the form of the serpent a prominent 
object in primitive art, and the earliest forms of religion, pre- 
vailing extensively in native traditions, and as a symbol proving 
to be widespread. The question is, whether its appearance in 
historic times, is the result of its prevalence in the prehistoric. 

The serpent symbol in America is especially interesting. Here 
it is free from historic associations, has few of the accumulations 
of civilized art, is unattended with the customs which have clus- 
tered about it in the East. There may be, to be sure, discussions 
in connection with it, and some may be inclined to trace the 
symbol to scripture lands and ascribe it to the scripture narrative, 
yet the fact that it is found in regions so remote makes it uncer- 
tain. The value of the study of the symbol in America will be 
seen from this circumstance. We may be able to solve impor- 
tant problems by the means. 

We propose to consider the serpent .symbol in America. 

I. Its origin. Here there arise a number of enquiries, ist, The 


appearance of the symbol in the r>ast. 2d, The connection 
between the tradition in the East, and the traditions of the West, 
^rd, The correspondence between the tradition and the sym- 
bol everywhere. 4th, The mingling of the serpent symbol and 
the sun symbol. 5th, The enquiry is, whether serpent worship 
was a widespread cult, or was something which was local. 6th, 
Did the symbol originate in this country? 7th, Can the serpent 
.symbol in this country be said to be derived from the scripture 
narrative. This last is perhaps the chief enquiry. It is a well 
known fact that the symbol prevails in oriental countries, and 
that the tradition of the serpent is common in the mythology of 
all lands. The fact that the serpent appears in the traditions of this 
country makes this enquiry all the more interesting. 8th, The ap- 
pearance of the serpent amid the ornamentations of the palaces 
and idol pillars of Central America suggests that the symbol was 
highly developed, and by following the stages up to this point 
we might learn why and how' the serpent became so prominent 
in Greek Art. 9th, Still further the connection between the ser- 
pent worship and the phallic symbol is a fruitful theme and 
might engage our attention throughout the whole of this paper. 
We arc controlled, however, by our limitations and must onl)- 
touch upon a few points and then pass on. 

I. Lenormant, the French historian and archaeologist, explains 
the " Serpent in Eden" as follows: He says that the tradition 
of the serpent, was seized upon b)' the sacred writer and embod- 
ied in the narrative, but the origin of it was in pre-historic times. 
He maintains that the symbolism of the garden of Eden was de- 
rived from the serpent worship which had prewiiled, and under 
this SN-mbolism an actual fact was made known. A new explan- 
ation of the fall of maii is given. It was a fall from potential 
holiness, and not from actual holiness. The conscience of the 
first man was designed to keep him in the true worship, and to 
teach him about the true God, but disobeying this he fell away 
into the various .systems of nature worship and became ruined 
by the fall. Serpent worship was a native faith, one of the vari- 
eties of nature worship, but it was a very degenerate form of the 
faith; tlic serpent itself became at length the embodiment of evil, 
and the source of degenerac}'. 

On this point there might be a difference of opinion, and yet 
if we take the association of the serpent with the phallic .sym- 
bol, we can easily see how man would degenerate, and this 
form of religion become the cause of his degeneracy or fall. 

Serpent worship in the East is certainly a source of evil, and 
whatever we may say about its age and origin we must acknowl- 
edge that there is a great contrast between it and the worship 
taught by the scriptures. In reference to the question whether 
the serpent symbol in America can be traced to the traditions of the 
East, and whether there is any connection between the scrip- 


tun.' narrative and this symbol a few words arc appropriate. 

The serpent symbol certainly abounded in the prehistoric period 
in this countrx'. If it was derived from the scripture it must have 
beni transmitted at a very early date. The s\'mbol of the ser- 
pent is here very rude, so rude as to ahnost convince us 
that it originated on this soil. It might, to be sure, have under- 
gone a degenerating process in its transmission, and }-et the fact 
that there is so much rudeness to the symbol and so man)^ differ- 
ent types manifested by it, would almost preclude this. The 
picture given to us by the sacred word, of the serpent and the 
tree; is attended with the idea of temptation to e\-il, but the tra- 
dition in America has no such moral distinction. 

The serpent symbol in America is not like the serpent in the 
garden. It is not even like the sacred tree of the ancient Assyrians 
and Babylonians though it has much more in common with that 
symbol than with an}- picture of the fall. There are. to be sure, 
a fjw relics which by some are claimed to be genuine, which 
tran mit the symbol exacth' as it is given in the scriptures. *Mr. 
Ignatius Donnelly, in his volume called "Atlantis," has given a cut 
which illustrates this, but the specimen can hardly be called a 
gen 'line prehistoric relic. It is more likely to have been left by 
by some Spanish explorer than by any native. 

The tradition and the worship of the serpent in oriental coun- 
tries might have come from the scriptures, and in a degenerate 
form ma)' have been transmitted, carrying the symbols with them. 
This country however is very remote and the tradition can hard- 
ly be traced back to the sacred record. It would be easier to 
explain the scripture account of the serpent as the result of a 
primitive .system such as we find here, than it would to trace the 
symbol in America to scripture lands and say that it was the de- 
generate form of this sacred story, s}'mbolized b}- the natives in 
their relics. Still the prevalence of the tradition and the symbol 
may possibly be owing to the vague and shadow)- m)-th which ma)- 
ha\e been 'transmitted from the earliest time. The myth would 
naturally become conformed to the superstitious notions and 
customs of the natives. The imager)- would become American, 
the very conception would be savage, and the original story 
would be lost. The contrast between the s)-mbol in the East 
and the West can at least be thus explained. 

2. The correspondence between the traditions of this country 
and those of Europe and the lands of the East will perhaps be a 
better point. This correspondence has been explained. Dr. D. G. 
Brinton thinks that all the stories about the creation, the deluge, 
the first ancestor, the Culture-Heroes, and e\'en some of the 
migration legends, can be traced to nature worship. Me makes 
them all to be mere variations of a primitive niN^thology. Even 
the heroes which are so well known to history and which ha\'e 

■■'See .-Atlantis, page 445. 


appeared conspicuously in literature and poetry, Hiawatha, Mon- 
tezuma, the " Fair God" of the Toltecs, Quetzacoatl and the 
Peruvian Viracocha, are but personifications of the powers of na- 
ture, with a small amount of actual history as a basis for their 
celebrity. * On the other hand, Charles Leland maintains that 
there was a close connection between these traditions and those 
which have been preserved in the Younger Edda. 

Mr. Leland quotes Henry Schoolcraft as holding" a contrary 
opinion, but thinks the traditions of the Wabanaki are excep- 
tional. Mr. Schoolcraft's language is as follows:t 

"Where analogies are so general there is a constant liability to 
mistakes. Of these foreign analogies of myth-lore, the least 
tangible, it is believed, is that which has been suggested with the 
Scandinavian mythology\ That mythology is of so marked and 
peculiar a character that it has not been distinctly traced out of 
the great circle of tribes of .the Indo-Germanic family. Odin and 
his terrific pantheon of war gods and social deities could only 
exist in the dreary latitudes of storms and fire which produce a 
Hecla and a Maelstrom. These latitudes have invariably pro- 
duced nations whose influence has been felt in an elevating pow- 
er over the world. From such a source the Indian could have de- 
rived none of his vague symbolisms and mental idiosyncrasies 
which have left him as he is found to-da)-, without a go\-ernment 
and without a god." Mr. Leland says: J 

"This is all perfectly true of the myths of Hiawatha-Manobozho. 
Nothing on earth could be more unlike the Norse legends than 
the Indian Eddas of the Chippewas and Ottawas. But it Avas not 
known to this writer that there already existed in Northeastern 
America a stupendous mythology, derived from a land of storms 
and fire, more terrible and wonderful than Iceland; nay, so tciri- 
ble that Icelanders themselves were appalled b\' it. Here indeed 
there existed all the time, a code of mythological legends such as 
he declared Indians incapable of producing; but strangest of all, 
this American mythology of the north, which has been the very 
last to become known to Ameiican readers, is literally so like the 
Edda itself that, as this work fully proves, there is hardly a song 
in the Norse collection which does not contain an incident found 
in the Indian poem legends, while in several there are man\- such 
coincidences." * * 

"It made, in short, a mytholog}' such as would be perfectly 
congenial to any one who had read and understood the Edda, 
Beowulf, and the Kalavala, with the wildest and oldest Norse 
Sagas. The Wabanaki mythology, which was that which gave 
a fairy, an elf, a naiad, or a hero to every rock and river and 
ancient hill in New England, is just the .one of all others which, 
is least known to the New Englanders." 

'''Sec Myths of the Now World, pps 34, 49, 58. 81. tii, 117, 123, 177, 183. 193, 193, 209 and 225. 
tSee "AlgfoiKiiiin Legends of New England." — Introduction, pp 1-3. 
JAlgonqum Legends, Introduction, pp. 4 and 5. 



Fig. 23.— gk::at serpent in adams couniv, o. 


"It may very naturall\' be asked by many, how it came to pass 
that the Indians of Maine and of the farther north have so much 
of the Edda in their sagas; or, if it was derived through tht hLs- 
kimo tribes, how these got it from the Norsemen who were pro- 
fessedly Christians. I do not think the time has come for hilly 
answering the first question. There is some great mystery of 
mythology, a5 yet unsolved, regarding the origin of the Edda 
and its relations with the faiths and folk-lore of the older Sl).im- 
anic beliefs, such as Eapp, Finn. Samoyed, Eskimo, and Tartar. 
This was the world's first religion; it is found in the so called 
Accadian-Turanian beginning of Babylon, whence it possibly 
came from the West. But what we have here to consider is 
whether the Norsemen did directly influence the Eskimo and 

3. The appearance of the serpent in American tradition is not 
confined to the northeast coast or to the Algonquin race, but is, 
in fact, found among all the different tribes. Mr. Schoolcraft 
has referred to it in his interesting volume called "Algic Re- 
searches." Dr. Brinton has also spoken of it in his volume, 
"Myths of the New World." Mr. R. M. Dorman in his "Origin 
of Primitive Superstitions," Mr. E. G. Squier in his volume called 
"Serpent worship," Mr. H. H. Bancroft in his "Native Races," 
and many other writers. 

Mr. Dorman says: *"The worship paid to the rattle-snake was 
universal among all the tribes, but not conferred exclusively 
upon this serpent. All the snakes enjoyed a share of it though 
in a less degree. The Winnebago^s reverenced and never killed 
the rattle-snake. The Indians of I'lorida venerated the rattle- 
snake and would not kill one for fear its spirit would incite its 
kindred to revenge its death. The Cherokees worshipped the 
rattle-snake. In Brazil, in a large town of 8,ooD cabins, Don 
Alvarez found a tower which contained a serpent 27 feet long, 
with a very large head. The Indians worshipped this as a divin- 
ity and fed it with human flesh. The Peruvians worshipped 
adders. Many images of serpents were found in South America 
before which the inhabitants knelt in adoration." 

The Iroquois have a tradition about Niagara Falls, that a ser- 
pent poisoned the waters, but lleno, the thunderer, who dwelt 
under the sheet of water, discharged upon him a mighty thunder- 
bolt which slew him. The Senecas still point to a place in the 
creek where the banks were shelved out in a semi-circular form 
which was done by the serpent when he turned to escape. His 
body floated down the stream and lodged upon the verge of the 
Cataract, stretching nearly across the ri\er. The raging waters^ 
thus dammed up, broke through the rocks behind, and thus the 
whole verge of the fall upon which the body rested, was precipi- 

•-1 If rman's Oriui i ( f I'liniitivc Supcrstili ms. pp 'A^. 


tated into the abyss beneath. In this mnnner was formed the 
Horseshoe Falls."* 

Dr. Brinton says that the serpent seems to be associated in its 
winding course to rivers. The Kennebec, a stream in Maine, 
in the Algonquin means "snake," and the Antietam. in Iroquois, 
has the same sis^nification. There is a tradition that a \ast ser- 
pent lived in the Mississippi near Fo.\ (Illinois) River, but he 
finally took a notion to visit the Great Lakes, and the trail he 
made passing thither, is the basin of that stream. t 

It has. b\' an association of ideas, become connected with the 
lightning. The Algonquins thought that the lightning was an 
immense serpent. The Shawnees called thunder, the hissing of 
the Great Snake, and Tlaloc, the Toltec Thunder god. is always 
represented with the snake twisted about his body. In the Ojib- 
way mythology the serpent robs the Thunder-bird's nest. 

It has also a strange mysterious relation to the spirit land. In 
one tradition the serpent forms a bridge on which the soul must 
cross the great stream which separates this world from the spirit 

"Who is a Manito?" asked the mystic media chant of the Al- 
gonquins. "He, who walketh with a serpent, walking on the 
ground." is the reph'. "He is a Manito.";); 

The cloud serpent. MixcoatI, the white or gleaming cloud ser- 
pent, is said to have been the only divinity of the ancient Chi- 

It is said ot Quetzacoatl, the great Mexican di\'init)', when he 
departed from the land, that he entered his wizard skiff made of 
serpent skins and embarked upon the sea, after bestowing his 
blessing upon the young men who accompanied him.y 

In some localities the serpent seemed to be considered as 
the embodiment of evil. The Apaches hold that every serpent 
contains the soul of a bad man.^ 

The Piutes of Nevada have a demon deit)- in the form of a 
serpent, still supposed to exist in the waters of P\Tamid Lake 
and this Devil Snake causes the water to boil like a pot, in time 
of a storm.' 

It was described to Whipple and to Mollhausen as possessing 
power over the sea, lakes, rivers and rain. It was, among the 
Pueblo cities of the Pecos, supposed to be sacred and accord- 
ing to some accounts was fed with the flesh of his devotees. - 

*''rhe Irciquois, or the I'ri'^ht Siclt: of Indian Char.icter," by Minnie Myrtle, p. 133. 

tDorman's Primitive Superstitions, p. 315, quoted from Schoolcraft, p. 682. 

J'ranner's Narrative, p. 356. I'rinton's Myths, p. 114. 

SBrinton's Myths, p. 171. 

I'Dorman's Prim. Siip.-p. 94. — Short.-aSg.-Prt^scott-Nol. I-5S. 

THancroft's Native Races, Vol. HI. p. 135.— Schoolcraft's .\rchives. \\A. V. p. 209. 

ir)ancroft's.-\'ol. lU-p. 135, — Sm. Rep. 

2(".regg's Commerce with the Prairie, Vol.I-p. 271. 

2WhippIc, Eubank and Turner's Report, p. 38. 

jP.icitic R. R. Report. Vnl. III. 


These traditions prove nothing as to the origin of the symbol 
and yet they show how prominent the serpent was in native 
American mythology. Perhaps the most interesting tradition 
of the serpent is one which has been preserved in the celebrated 
Red Score Record of the Delawares or Lenni Lenapes, called the 
Walum Olum. Of this, a new translation has been made b\- Dr. 
D. G. Brinton and we take pleasure in quoting from his book. 
The reader will notice the correspondence between this tradition 
and the scripture record, but v/ill see that it has been adapted to 
the new circumstances, the memory of the people not going 
back further than the migration. The following is the general 

I. The formation of the universe by the Great ]\Ianito, is de- 
scribed. In the primal fog and water}' waste, he formed land and 
sky and the heavens cleared. He then created men and animals. 
These lived in peace and joy until a certain evil manito came and 
sowed discord and misery." 

II. "The Evil Manito, who now appears under the guise of a 
gigantic serpent, determines to destroy the the human race, and 
for that purpose brings upon them a flood of water. Many per- 
ish, but a certain number escape to the turtle, that is, solid land, 
and are there protected by Nanabush (Manibozho or Michabo.) 
They pray to him for assistance, and he caused the water to dis- 
appear, and the serpent to depart." 

III. "The waters having disappeared, the home of the tribe is 
described as in a cold and northern clime. This they 
concluded to leave in search of warmer lands. Having dixided 
their people into a warrior and a peaceful class, they journeyed 
southward, toward what is called the ' Snake land.' " 

IV. "The first sixteen verses record the gradual conquest of 
most of the snake land. It seems to have required the succes- 
sive efforts of six or seven head chiefs, one after another, to bring 
this about, probably but a small portion at a time yielding to the 
attacks of these enemies. Its position is described as being to the 
southwest, and in the interior of the country. Here they first 
learned to cultivate maize. 

V. " Having conquered the Talegas, the Lenape possessed 
their land and that of the Snake people and for a certain time 
enjoyed peace and abundance. Then occurred a division of their 
people, some as Nanticokes and Shawnees, going to the south, 
others to the west, and later, the majority toward the east, 
arriving finally at the Salt sea, the Atlantic ocean."* 

We call attention to this record of the Delawares, for it con- 
nects the archaeology of this country with the traditionary lore 
of Europe and Central Asia. The record is evidently genuine 
and has no more signs of being modified to suit missionary influ- 
ence than all the traditions. There is a very remarkable cor- 

*Thc Lenape and their Legends, by Dr. D. G. Hrinton, pp. 167-68, 



respondence between the tradition as thus recorded and some of 
the symbolic structures which ha\e been found in the eastern por- 
tion of the Ohio ^'^alley. The Red Score shows that is possible 
to convey thought b}' sj'mbols, and we are not sure but that this 
was the object with some of the symbolic earth-works. 

4. We have maintained that the serpent s)-mboI was very preva- 
lent among the mounds of Ohio ; so prevalent as to give rise to 
the idea that the totem or ruling divinit}- of the people was the 


serpent. We do not say that the whole region was occupied by 
this people, for there are other districts where the alligator or 
lizard seems to be the totem ; but the place where the great ser- 
pent may be seen and where the serpent symbol prevails ; is a dis- 
trict which is situated south of that in which the alligator appears 
and which extends along the Ohio River on both sides from Ad- 
ams to Scioto county, or from the mouth of the Little Miami to 
that of the Scioto River. Corresponding to this district is anoth- 
■er where the Mound Builders erected their most notable works. 
This is situated a little farther to the east in the vicinity of 
Marietta. We ask the question whether this was not the habitat 
of the two races spoken of in the Walum Olum, the "'Snake" race 
and the Telegewhi. 

We take it as verv suggestive that ths tradition of the Lenni 
Lenapes so correspond with the arch?eolog}^ and especially that 
■of the eastern portion of the Ohio Valley. Here were situated, 
according to all accounts, the far famed race called the Telleghe- 
Avi or Alleghewi. The Mound Builders of Ohio have been 
identified with this traditionary people; identified not only by the 
missionaries such as Heckwelder, Zeisberger, and others, but by 
archaeologists. Here were situated, according to the interpretation 


whicli we ourselves have gi\-en to the earth works of Ohio, the 
celebrated "Snake tribe or nation" which is spokeaof in this tra- 

On this point we quote Mr. Horatio Hale, who .says: * "Every 
known fact favors the view that during a period which may be 
roughly estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, the Ohio 
\alley was occupied by an industrious population of .some Indi- 
an stock which had attained a grade of civilization similar to 
that now held by the \'illage Indians of New Mexico and Arizo- 
na; that their population was assailed from the North by less 
civilized and more warlike tribes of Algonkins and Hurons act- 
ing in a temporary league similar to those alliances which Pon- 
tiac and Tecumseh afterwards rallied against the white colonist; 
that after a long and wasting war the assailants were \'ictorious; 
the conqueied people were in great part exterminated; the sur- 
vivors were either incorporated with the conquering tribes or fled 
southward and found a refuge among the nations which possess- 
ed the region lying between the Ohio Valley and the Gulf of 
Mexico; and that this mixture of races has largely modified the 
lansfuaee, character and usages of the Cherokee and Choctaw 

Dr. Brinton also has pointed out the fact that the tribes of the 
Chahta, Mu.skoki, comprising the Creeks, Chickasaws and Choc- 
taws were mound builders in recent times, but he thinks that the 
Mound Builders of the Ohio were in part their progenitors. The 
remarkable work oftheTuscarorachiefCusick is evidence also. He 
describes the conflicts which were carried on between the northern 
confederacy and the southern emperor who dwelt at the "Golden 
City," but who also built forts throughout his dominions and al- 
most penetrated to lake Erie. " Long bloody wars ensued, 
which probably lasted about 100 years. The people of the north 
were too skillful in the use of bows and arrows, and could endure 
hardships ^\•hich pro\ed fatal to a foreign people. At last the 
northern people gained the conquest and all the towns and forts 
were totally destro)'ed and left a heap 'of ruins ;"t According 
to Heckewelder, "hundreds of the slain Tallegewi were buried 
under mounds near the Great River." l\Ir. Hale says " there 
could be no reasonable doubt that the Allighewi, or Tellegewi 
who have given their name to the Alleghany river and moun- 
tains, were the Mound Builders." He says " the Dakota stock- 
had its oldest branch east of the Alleghanies;" he thinks that the 
migration of the tribe was from the Northeast. Prof \V. A. Wil- 
iamson, the son of the missionary among the Dakctas, says 
that they have a tradition that their ancestors came from the 
Northeast, and that they formerly dwelt on the Ohio River, and 
built the mounds in that vicinity. It is supposed by some that 

*See Anier. Antq. Vol. \', No 2, p. 120. 
tAmer. .•\nliq., Vol. I, No. 2, p. 116.) 



the Dakotas and the Cherokees were different branches of the 
same race. We speak of these traditions for the\' seem to con- 
firm the point which we have made, that the mounds on the 
Ohio River were built by this people, which were called the 
" Snakes." 

5. We now turn to the archaeological evidence. There are 
mounds on the Ohio River which are in the shape of serpents. 
The great Serpent Mound in Adams Co. is well known. It 
needs no description. The discussion has, to be sure, been going 
on lately, whether this mound is reall}- a serpent or not. Accord- 
ing to the surve}' of Squier & Davis, there is no doubt as to the 
serpent effigy. Fig. 23. Those authors also thought they recog- 
nized in the effigy, the ancient tradition of the serpent and the 
egg which is so prominent in the cosmogon>' of tlie *Hindoos. 
Rev. J. P. McLean, however, has explored the region and makes 
out a different figure, the figure of a serpent and a frog ; and 
thinks that the old interpretation cannot be maintained. Fig. 24. 
There is this to be said howe\-er, about the effigy, that its very 
size and prominence on the summit of the hill, convey the idea, 
that it was a very important symbol, and quite likely to have 
represented the chief totem or divinity of the tribe duelling in 
the region. From it we judge that the name of the tribe would 
be the "Snake Indians." 

Mr. W. H. Holmes thinks that it was a serpent symbol, but 
suggests that the circle with the altar in the center of it symbol- 
ized the heart of the serpent. 

There is a circle or earth work near Chillicothe which is in 

''^^: the shape of a serpent. In this 

" case the serpent is not a mere 

effig)- resting upon the summit 

\ of a hill, (Fig. 25,) as in Adams 

i countN', but the wall to the en- 

-'^■V-MM closure, or rather two serpents,. 

•'-"^ "); the heads forming the gateway.. 

; This is a \-er}- remarkable work. 

The situation is in the midst ofan 

i-ig.25.-sERi>E\iF.iii(;v, cHu.i.icoTHK. described by Squier & Davis 
as follows: "The body of the work is elliptical in shape, the 
diameter being 170 ft., transverse 250 feet. There is a single 
opening or gateway- 50 feet wide on the south, where the 
walls curve outwards and lap back upon themselves for the 
space of Go ft. The most remarkable feature of this singular 
work consists of the five walls starting within lO ft. of the enclos- 

*Anc. Mon., p. 96. 



ure and extending northward slightly converging, for the dis- 
tance of lOO ft. 5ee Fig. 25. These walls are 20 ft. broad at 
the ends nearest the enclosure and 10 ft. apart. The}- diminish 
gradually as they recede to 10 feet at their outer extremities. 
The purposes of this strange work are entirely inexplicable. 
The small size precludes the idea of a defensive origin. It 
is the only structure of the kind which has been found in the 
valleys and is totally unlike those found on the hills. The Great 
Stone Fort on Paint Creek is but two miles distant and over- 
looks this work.* 

Our explanation of this structure is that it represents two ser- 
pents with the bodies joined, but with the heads turned back in 
such a way as to make the opening or gateway to the enclosure 
between them. The long stone walls which seem to Squier & Da- 


Two serpents guarding the gate. 





vi sso remarkable, represent the tails of these serpents very much 
as the idols of Mexico contain the tails of serpents below'the fig- 
ures. The protection given to this enclosure would be partly 
owing to the serpent effigy and the .sacred character of the place 
■^vould also be exhibited by it. An enclosure similar to this but 
•on a larger .scale may be found on the banks of the Great Miami 
river, four miles above the town of Hamilton. Here the serpent 
symbol is contained in the entrance to the enclosure but there 

*Anc. Mon. p. 4, pi. III. 



is no such completed line of earth works and no structures that 
correspond to the rattles. Squier & Davis' description of this 
is as follows : " The ends of the wall curve inwardly as they ap- 
proach each other upon a radius of 75 ft., forming a true circle. 
Within the space thus formed is another circle iCO ft. in diameter 
which seems to protect the gateway. Outside of this circle and 
overlooking the bluff is a mound 40 ft. in diameter and 5 ft. high. 
The passage between the circle and the embankment is only 
about 6 ft." Fig. 26. 

Another enclosure resembling this has been described" by 
Squier & Davis. It is in Butler County. The peculiarit y of the 


work is that every avenue is strongly guarded and the entrances 
resemble the gateway just described. The ends of the walls 
overlap each other in the form of semi-circles having a common 
centre. The coincidence between the guarded entrances of this 
and similar works throu;Thout the west, and those of the Mexi- 
can entrances, is singularly striking.* 

Still another work which has the symbol of the serpent as a 
guard to the entrance way is found near Colerain, Hamilton Co., 
Ohio, on the bank of the great Miami.f Fig. 27. 

In this case the tails of the serpent guard the entrance way rather 
than the heads ; although there is another gateway where the 
peculiar circular entrance is seen, but it is closed up and the gate 
way where the tails are seen is the principal entrance. 

Fort Ancient is another work where the serpent symbol may 

*Ac. Mon., Squier & Davis, p. 21, pi. VIII, Xo. i. 
tA»c. Mon., p. 35, pi. XIII, Ko. 2. Anc. Mon. p. 18. 


be seen. (Fig. 28.) The walls of this enclosure are singularly tor- 
tuous and resemble massive serpent's winding along the edge of 
the bluffs. The place where the serpent symbol is most manifest 
is where the large mounds guard the entrance to the lower en- 
closure at the neck of land which joins the two enclosures. Here 
the ^\•all is not only tortuous but rises and falls very much as if 
two massive serpents were rolling their bodies along. There is also 
in the larger enclosure a singular earth work which has the form 
of a crescent. From its position inside of the enclosure we 
should say that it was designed as a moon symbol, yet it may have 
been built in that form merely as a matter of defense. We do 
not state positively that the serpent s)'mbol is contained in the 
Ft. Ancient, for it may be that the tortuous shape of the walls was 
owing merely to the nature of the ground, as the bluff is exceed- 
ingly broken. The walls, in following the summit of the bluffs 
would naturally be serpentine. And yet if the serpent symbol 
is found in other earth works we should conclude that it was 
contained in this, for the resemblance is very striking, when one 
conceives the idea, and looks at the wall with this point in mind. 
Another place where the serpent symbol is supposed to be con- 
tained in an earth work, is at Portsmouth. Here we have 
an extensive series of works consisting of walled enclosures, 
parallel or covered ways, curved lines, horseshoe symbols, mounds 
enclosed in circles, and a remarkable symbolic structure which 
might be considered as representing the symbol of the sun and 
the four quarters of the sky, or the four winds, and along with 
the other structures, the serpent symbol. This is one of the most 
remarkable series of works found in the world. It is composed 
of three groups ; one on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, 
opposite the mouth of the Scioto, about two miles below the 
city of Portsmouth; another which occupies the ground on the 
north side of the Ohio to the east of the Scioto; it runs up and 
across the two terraces and has its main works on the third terrace 
overlooking the city below. The third group is on the 
Kentucky shore but several miles further up the river than the 
first group. The total length of the parallels now traceable may 
be estimated at 8 miles, giving 16 miles of embankment to the 
parallels alone, and computing the walls around the enclosures 
and the circles which surround the horseshoe symbols with the 
circles which surround the sun symbol, we have a grand total of 
upwards of 20 miles of earth walls. The city of Portsmouth is 
now built upon the ground where the largest group formerly ex- 
isted. But the walls were fortunately visited and described be- 
fore they were destroyed. Squier & Davis say, "the avenues, or 
covered ways extending from one group to the other, have in- 
•■duced many to assign them a military origin, built with a design 
to protect communication between the different works or enclo- 
.sures; but it is very certain that we must seek for some other ex- 


planation of their purposes. It is a singular fact that this entire 
series of works has a resemblance to the great circle at Avebury, 
England. There is the same prevalence of the horse-shoe symbol^ 
and of circular enclosures, the different works being connected 
here by earth walls as there by standing stones.* 

II. We now turn to the explanation of the serpent symbol in 
America. Various theories have been advanced to account for 
its presence on the continent, but none of them are very satisfac- 
tory. One class maintain that it was like all other symbols, 
wholly indigenous; but another class hold that it was brought 
in from some other continent, and is to be connected with serpent 
worship elsewhere. We shall not undertake to defend either of 
these theories, but shall speak of the possible explanations and 
ask various questions. 

I. Was it a symbol which arose out of the system of animism 
which prevailed among the rude tribes, the shape of the ground 
and the locality suggesting that the spot was haunted by the 
great serpent spirit ? 2. Was it another form of tribal worship or 
totemism. the tribe which dwelt here having made the serpent 
their local divinity or tribal god, and so exalting it above all 
the other divinities and worshiping it as the chief divinity? 3. Was 
it merely a symbol of the nature powers — the lightning, the fire, 
the sun, the water, making one or all of them objects of worship? 
4, Was it a symbol which had been adopted by some secret society 
and which had become prominent anjong the sacred mysteries 
and ceremonies, but had now been made public and placed 
before the people to increase its power ? 5 . Was it the result of an 
intruded cultus. thus showing contact with other countries in 
prehistoric times? 6. Was there a general cult which embodied 
itself in both the effigies and the relics, and which spread over 
the entire continent? or was it a mere local cult, the result of 
some tribal myth or custom? These questions suggest the dif- 
ferent explanations which might be given, and all of them fur- 
nish interesting lines of study. 

I. The animistic conception may have been embodied in the 
effigies, for they are all of them situated in wild places, where it 
would be perfectly natural to imagine that the spirit of the ser- 
pent would resort, and the shape of the clifts or bluffs upon 
which they are erected would naturally suggest the thought. 
It is very common for primitive people to ascribe supernatural 
spirits to the various objects of nature and to trees, rocks, caves, 
streams, springs, lakes, mountains, islands, imagine that certain 
places were haunted by certain animal spirits, which become 
local divinities. It was in this way that the Island of Mackinaw 
was regarded as sacred to the turtle. The Hot Springs and 
Spirit lake in Arizona were regarded by the Moquis as sacred to 

*Dr. Stukely considered the works at Avebury to be a druidical place of sacrifice the 
avenues connecting the sun circles being in the shape of a massive serpent. 


the great serpent. The Niagara Falls and St. Anthony's Falls 
were both supposed to be formed by the body of the great ser- 
pent which floated down the stream and lodged upon the rocks. 
The Pawnees had a story that the soul of a young brave who 
had been killed was carried to the houses of the animal divini- 
ties, Nahiirac. It was also a common superstition that the souls 
of the dead were confined to certain places, called houses. One 
of them was called Pa/mk, "hill island," was opposite the town 
of Fremont, Nebraska; another called La-la zva-koh-ti-to , "dark 
island," was in the Piatt river; another called Ah-ha-zvit-akol, 
"white bank," on the Loup lork, opposite Cedar river; another 
was called Pahowa, "water on the bank," on the Solomon river; 
another was called Pahiir, it is a rock in Kansas which sticks 
out of the ground, called "guide rock." At the top of the 
mound is a round hole and water is in it. The Indians throw 
offerings into this hole to Tirazva, their great divinity. They 
were accustomed to make a sacrifice of a captive every year, by 
burning the body after they had shot arrows into it. They 
beh'eved that there were giants at first, and these giants were 
rebellious against Tirazua, but they were destroyed. 

2. The region in Ohio where the serpent effigies are the most 
prominent was once the dwelling place of a tribe of hunters who 
are known to have migrated from their original seats east of the 
Alleghenies, following the buffalo in their retreat westward, 
namely, the Dakotas or Sioux, and it is quite likely that the 
name of the snake people, which tradition has preserved, was 
the one which was given to them. One plausible explanation is 
that this people erected the most of the effigies in this region, 
and that they built the earliest or oldest of the two forts which 
are now to be seen upon the summit of the hill at Fort Ancient, 
the one whose walls are supposed to have been in the shape 
ot tortuous and rolling serpents, its gateway guarded by their 
heads. Confirmatory of this is the fact that the serpent effigies 
are found all along the track taken by the Dakotas in their 
migration westward to their present seats. One was discovered 
by the writer on the bluff near Quincy, Illinois, another on the 
bluff near Cassville, Wisconsin, another on the ridge near Lake 
Wingra, near Madison, Wisconsin, another near Mayville, Wis- 
consin, still another, discovered by Prof J. A. Todd, on the bluff 
called Dakota. And the fact that carved animal pipes, resem- 
bling those in Ohio, have been found in the mounds in Illinois 
and Iowa, the most interesting of which has the serpent coiled 
around the bowl exactly as the one found in the fort called 
Clarks works, 

3. Another explanation is interesting. There is, in Ohio, 
an effigy of a bird which is very much like the birds which have 
been inscribed on the rocks in Dakota. These are supposed to 
represent the thunder bird, a nature power divinity among the 




Dakotas, and which had its abode near the pipe stone quarry in 
Minnesota. This remarkable fissure was situated upon a hilltop 
near the east branch of the Miami river. The effigy is contained 
within a square enclosure, the walls of which conform to the 
shape of the bluff and are very crooked. The entrances to the 
enclosure are guarded by fragmentary walls, which are placed 
within the gateway. The figure itself has not been heretofore 
recognized as an effigy, but on examining it closely we discover 
in it the head and tail and outspread wings of a bird, the wings 
having been formed in such a way as to represent long, drooping 
feathers, the very features which symbolize the rain. These 
various facts, which have recently come to light, render it very 
probable that the Dakota effigy-builders were all of them, before 
they migrated westward, serpent worshipers, and that wherever 
they had a location they erected shrines to this serpent divinity 
and made their offerings to it. 

4. A fourth explanation is the one suggested by the serpent 
effigy discovered in Adams county, Illinois. Here the serpent 
is situated upon the summit ot a hill which overlooks the bot- 
tom land of the Mississippi river for many miles, making it a 
conspicuous object. Here, too, the t^gy is conformed to the 
shape of the bluff, as it is in Ohio. The sinistral turn of the 
effigies has been recognized in both places. The fact that there 
were fire beds and the evidences of cremation of bodies in the 
bottom of the mound, which formed the prominent object in the 
centre of the body of the serpent, is another point of interest. 
The fire was an emblem of sun worship and was sacred to the 
sun. The phallic symbol was also discovered here. The bodies 
were placed upon their backs, the face turned upward to the sun, 
the hands folded over the thighs; the skeletons of two snakes 
were found coiled up between the hands near the secret parts of 
the body. The number four was also observed here. This is a 
common symbol among the sun worshipers. There were four 
large mounds m the centre of the effigy; there were four burial 
places in the top of one of the mounds, the points of the com- 
pass having been observed in the burials. What is most singu- 
lar about the whole find was that the altar or fire bed was placed 
upon the summit of a deposit of black soil, constituted a circu- 
lar or saucer-like depression in the deposit, but all the soil which 
was placed above the altar and made the rest of the mound was 
of a strong contrast, as it was a light colored sand. A white 
streak of burned lime and a red streak of bark or some other 
substance, a gray streak of ashes intervening between the two 
layers. Here then we have the symbols wtiich were common in 
the east and which were so expressive of the nature powers, the 
contest between light and darkness, the cardinal points, the 
number four, the several colors, the sinistral turn, the fire, the 
cremated bodies, and the serpent effigy itself all being symbols 


of sun worship. We imagine that these symbols may have 
been introduced in connection with "sacred mysteries," and were 
preserved by some secret society or unknown organization and 
that the rites practiced were a part of the sacred ceremonies 
which were observed. The situation is to be noticed. They 
were situated in the wildest places and were often on the sum- 
mits of hills where their form could be seen at a great distance. 
They were, perhaps, shrines and places of sacrifice. The altars 
and fire beds are found in connection with them. They were 
calculated to inspire terror in the minds of superstitious people 
and yet were in harmony with the scenes of nature about them. 
The fires that were lighted upon them sent out their glare 
through the darkness and covered the whole region with lurid 
light. They were not merely shrines or places of worship, but 
were also places of sacrifice where human bodies were cremated 
and mystic ceremonies were practiced. We can not look upon 
these serpent efifigies in the same way that we do upon the animal 
figures, for they were strange contortions and outre shapes; and 
ghastlv scenes were connected with them. 

Here then we have different explanations of the serpent sym- 
bol, each of them furnishing a different answer to the various 
questions which have been asked, one pointing to the animistic 
conception, another to the totemistic idea, a third to the tutelar 
divinity, a fourth favoring the thought that a secret society super- 
intended the erection of the effigies, all of them doing away with 
the necessity of an intruded cultus to account for them and favor- 
ing the theory of an indigenous origin. 

5. The argument for a transmitted symbolism is one which 
comes from the mingling of the symbols of sun worship with those 
of serpent worship in the region where the effigies are so promi- 
nent, and from the striking resemblance which these effigies 
have to others which are found in Great Britain, Europe and in 
oriental countries. How do we explain this remarkable combi- 
nation? Shall we say that there was a class of persons who by 
some means were able to cross the ocean and make their way 
to this remote region and there introduce the various symbols 
which were used upon the other side of the water and which be- 
longed to the ancient historic races of the east? 

Let us consider this point further and examine the evidence on 
both sides. We take the evidence of Mr. F. W. Putnam, who 
has made a special study of the great serpent in Adams county, 
Ohio. He has described this effigy as the figure of the serpent 
slowly uncoiling itself and creeping stealthily along the crest of 
the hill, as if about to seize the oval figure in its extended jaws. 
He says its position east and west indicates a belief in the great 
sun god, whose first rays fall on the altar in the center of the 
oval. He quotes the words of Dr. J. W. Phene, who discovered 
a remarkable serpent effigy in Great Britain. "The tail of the 



serpent rests near the shore of Loch Nell. The ground gradu- 
ally rises seventeen to eighteen feet in height, and forms a 
double curve. The head forms a circular cairn, on which there 
still remains the trace of an altar. The ridge was also modified 
by art, so that the whole length should form a spine of the ser- 
pent. Large stones were set like the vertebrae and smaller 
stones sloping off the ridge were suggestive of ribs." It is said 
that the worshipers standing at the altar would look eastward 
along the whole length of the reptile, toward the triple peaks ot 
Ben Cruachan. See Fig. 31. Prof Putnam draws the compari- 
son between this efifigy and the one in Ohio. He says: "Each 
has the head pointing west, each terminates with a circular en- 
closure, containing an altar, from which, looking along the most 
prominent part of the serpent, the rising sun may be seen. In 
the oval embankment, 
with its central pile of 
burnt stones, we find 
the Lingam un Yoni 
of India, the recipro 
cal principle of na- 
ture, guarded by the 
serpent." This inter- 
pretation of the great 
serpent is the same 
as that given by the 
first authors who de- 
scribed it, Squier and 
Davis, who say that 
the serpent in combination with the circle, eg^ or globe has been 
a prominent symbol among many primitive nations, and prevailed 
in Greece, Egypt and Assyria, and entered into the superstitions 
of the Celts, Hindoos and Chinese; and even penetrated into 
America. These authors speak of the altars in the oval enclos- 
ure of the great serpent near the alligator mound at Granville, 
and the cross at Tarleton, Ohio, all of which were on "high 
places." We are aware that there is another interpretation of 
these different effigies which would make them altogether in- 
digenous, and which would deny any connection between sym- 
bols found in them and those found in ether continents.* 

6. The correspondence between the structures and the relics 
is to be noticed here. We find that animal worship or totemism 
was embodied in the emblematic mounds, or animal effigies, and 
the carved pipes. Mythologic divinities were portrayed by the 
rock inscriptions and rock outlines, as well as by the smaller 
images found in the mounds. The sun symbol was also con- 

*W. H. Holmes thinks that the oval represented the body of the serpent, the altar the 
heart, the nose of the serpent was the end of the cliff. Everything- about the efiSgy was 
purely aboriginal. The resemblances of the cliff to the serpent having led to the erection 
of the eftigy. 

Mg. 31.— Serpent in Scotland. 



tained in the earth- works of Ohio and the shell gorgets of Ten- 
nessee, the correspondence between them showing that there 
was a religious cult which prevailed among all these tribes 
situated in the Mississippi valley. This, of course, does not prove 
that any cult was introduced from any other continent, but it 
at least shows that serpent worship was not altogether a local cult. 
This correspondence will be seen if we take specific localities for 
illustration and draw the analogies between the earlh-works and 
the relics which contain these symbols of the region, but it will 
be seen even more clearly if we take the earth-works or efifigies 
of one district and compare them with the relics of another dis- 
trict, for by this means we see that the symbols were not local 
but general. 


Fig. SZ.—Bird Hjffit/y. 

In the earth-works, the concentric circles surround a central 
mound, which has been regarded as a symbol of the sun, and an 
altar to the sun has frequently been found in the mound. In 
the gorgets, the concentric circles surround a central disk, which 
is supposed to be a symbol of the sun. There are earth- works 
in Ohio which contain the symbol of the cross, whose sides cor- 
respond with the cardinal points. There are gorgets in Tennessee 
which contain the cross enclosed within a circle, evidently de- 
signed as a weather symbol. The effigy of the bird is fre- 
quently seen in the earth-works. One of these effigies 
has been described as being in the center of a great circle at 
Newark. It contained an altar, and was evidently a symbol 
of the sun. The effigy of the bird on the East fork of the 
Miami river, referred to above, was, it is probable, the thunder 
bird.f There is a square enclosure surrounding it, whose gatej 
ways are guarded by crescent walls. The situation of the en- 
closure is remarkable. It is on an emine nce, and is visible from 

*The following are the symbols which have been recognized; i. The circle. 2. The 
cross. 3. The bird. 4. The square. 5. The crescent, b. 1 he Jew's-harp. 7. The horse- 
shoe. ^. . 

tCompare Fig. 32 with Fig. 6, p. 383. 


all directions. The bird effigy nearly fills the entire enclosure. 
In its shape it reminds us of the various bird effigies found in 
the gorgets. It has been suggested that the structures were de- 
voted to rites analogous to those attending the primitive hill or 
grove worship of the east. 

The square enclosures in Ohio are, many of them, orientated, 
have gateways in the sides and corners. There are square figures 
on the gorgets in Tennessee which have loops at the corners 
and birds* heads at the sides. Both of these are supposed to be 
symbols of the different quarters of the sky. There are many 
crescents among the mounds of Ohio which are associated with 
circles and with squares. The gorgets contain crescents enclosed 
in circles. 

Now these different figures show that nature worship pre- 
vailed over the different parts of the Mound-builders' territory, 
but the serpent symbol seems to have been very prominent in 
it. This may be seen from the following facts. Many relics in 
the shape of serpents have been found in the mounds. These 
were evidently devoted to sun worship, and were in fact placed 
upon altars as offerings to the sun. 

The association of the serpent gorgets with what might be 
called the bird gorgets is to be noticed here. Mr. \V. H. Holmes 
has described several of these and shown that the bird, the loop, 
the square, the circle, the sun with rays, and the cross were some- 
times combined in one complicated symbol. His description is 
as follows: 

"A square framework of four continuous parallel lines looped 
at the corners, the inner line touching the tips of the starlike 
rays. Outside of this are the four symbolic birds, placed against 
the side of the square opposite the arms of the cross. These 
birds' heads are carefully drawn. The mouth is open, the 
eyes represented by a circle, and a crest springs from the back of 
the head and neck. The crest is striated and pointed, and the 
two lines extend from the eye down to the neck. The bird 
resembles the ivory-billed woodpecker more than any other 
species." This makes the bird effigy which we have described 
all the more significant, for the square enclosure there contains 
the bird which is in the shape of a cross, but in its curved walls 
may be said to present the loops. 

Gen. Gates P. Thruston has described specimens which have 
been taken from mounds at Severville, McMahon and the 
Harpeth cemetery, near Nashville, as well as from Carthage, 
Alabama, which were evidently ancient. These show that the 
cult was widespread among the southern Mound-builders. The 
association of these shell gorgets with serpents on them, with 
the gorgets containing symbols of the sun and moon and stars, 
is another proof. These shell gorgets have been found at Nash- 
ville. One of them contains three crescents, which have a 



sinistral turn around a central disk. Outside of these are nine 
disks, with dots interspersed between them; outside of these are 
fourteen other disks, which are carved in rehef, so as to make 
scallops to the gorget. 

In Mound City we find crescents which were found in mounds 
which were surrounded by a circular earth-work, the symbol- 

i't</. S3. — Bald Friar's Hoch. 

ism being contained in the entire burial place, but the passage to 
the burial place was across the water from a circular earth-work, 
where was the village of the sun worshipers, the details of the 
symbolism having been retained here with as much care in the 
earth-works as it was in other localities in the relics themselves. 
It is to be noted that the shape of the double-headed serpent 
surrounding the enclosure on Paint creek is that of a Jew's-harp, 
which is a common symbol in the east. The same symbol is 



seen inscribed upon the rock in Pennsylvania called "Bald Friar's 
Rock." Here the head of the serpent is associated with various 
animal figures, but it has the same shape as many other symbolic 
figures in Europe and India, the Jew's-harp or the Mahadeo. 
See Fig. 33.* 

There are tablets which contain the horseshoe symbol, which 
may be compared to the so-called horseshoes in the Portsmouth 
works. One such was found near the great mound Cahokia. 
It contains, on one side, birds' heads, on the other, two human 
faces. In front of the faces are objects resembling serpents, 
which are suspended from the head dress, and fall across the 
mouth. In the mouth is a symbol which resembles the horse- 
shoe. The heads are divided from one another by parallel lines, 
which constitute a cross; in the cross are circles. Here then we 
have the symbols of the cross, the serpent, the horseshoe, and 
the circle. There was another 
gorget in the Illinois collection 
in Chicago which contains the 
figure of a person with a crown 
on his head, holding up a huge 
bird by the neck. This person 
has his mouth open and head 
turned back, while the same sym- 
bol of the horse-shoe is in his 
mouth and the same serpent fig- 
ure in front of the face. 

In certain gorgets we see con- 
centric circles surrounding a 
central disk, exactly as we find 
in Ohio; tour circular walls sur- 
rounding the central mounds, 
which maybe regarded as the ^o.n',.-Serpen.t Heads /mm the codices. 

symbol of the sun; and what is more, this central mound often 
contained an altar with fire which was sacred to the sun. In 
other gorgets we find the crescents which represent the moon, 
while in Ohio the crescents made from sheets of mica surrounded 
the central altars which contained the fire. The four concentric 
circles were probably designed to symbolize the circuit of the sky, 
the crescents, to symbolize the revolution of the sun, the disks 
to symbolize the sun and stars, all of them astronomical symbols. 
7. The solitary character of some of the effigies is an interest- 
ing feature. A solitary stone was used by the Iroquois as a 
tribal totem, called the Onondaga stone, but here in Ohio there 
were several solitary effigies, such as the thunder bird, the eagle, 
the alligator, the three-legged Q^gy at Portsmouth, a bear or 

♦This figure of the Jew's-harp is not brought out in tlie plate as plainly as it should be, 
but it is plainly seen on the rock. 


elephant, and the double-headed snake near Chillicothe. as well 
as the serpent. These were probably tribal totems, but they were 
the totems of a race of sun-worshipers, for they overlook the 
circular or sacred enclosures, which evidently were built by sun- 
worshipers, one at Portsmouth being connected with the group 
which was especially devoted to the sacrifices of the sun. 

This solitary effigy or totem was apparently connected by a 
"covered way" with the central group, suggesting that the 
effigy-builders had received the impress of the cult which was 
so prevalent in Great Britain,* for in this group we find nearly 
all of the symbols which were embodied in the standing stones, 
as the concentric circle, the horseshoe cove enclosed within a 
series of circles, the avenues which cross the river in a south- 
west and southeast direction. A large mound enclosed in a 
circle may be seen to the east of the group; though whether it 
may be said to correspond to the " Friars' Heel" of the Avebury 
works is uncertain. Each of these is near a group of village 
enclosures. The alligator mound near the villages at Newark; 

Fig. S5.— Serpent Tablet from Clark's Works, Ohio. 

the double-headed serpent near the villages at Bourneville; the 
thunder bird near villages on the Miami; but the great serpent 
seems to be remote from any such village enclosures; it m.ay 
have belonged to a preceding tribe. 

III. The distribution of the serpent symbol throughout the 
continent is another important point. This distribution is mainly 
in the line of relics which contain the serpent figure, though 
there are as we have seen many effigies in earthworks and occa- 
sionally an effigy carved out of stone, the two serpents' heads 
which were seen at the base of the pyramid at Chichen Itza, 
Yucatan, being the best specimens of the latter type. The 
inscriptions which contain the serpent effigy, and the codices of 
the Mayas, present the symbol under the same general form, but 
the details show that there were conventional elements con- 
nected with it which were as widespread as the serpent figure 

*The reader will find a number of articles in Science for August 1893, on the standing 
stones of Great Britain by Mr. A. L. Lewis, the result of recent explorations. Mr. Lewis 
Trrives at about the same conclusions as the old writers, such as Stukely Aberry and 
others, but he finds that there were several localities where connected groups of circles and 
avenues have about the same general characteristics, showing a stereotyped symbolism 
in them all. The question arises, did the serpent-worshioers in their migrations bring their 
sun-worship to Anierica, or were the sun-worshipers a different tribe from the serpent-wor- 
shipers The serpent is found among the relics of the suii-worshipers. 




itself. These elements consist in the division of the body into 
four parts; in the use of the concentric circles for the eye; in the 
presence of the feather ornament over the head; in the presence 
of the horse-shoe in the mouth, sometimes divided into four 
parts; in the presence of the loop or noose, or coil, and many 
other conventional symbols of the nature power. See Fig. 34. 
(i) The tablets from the North fork of Paint creek, enveloped 
in sheets of copper, represents the snake as coiled up so as to 
make three folds, the folds reminding us of those seen in the 
great serpent effigy itself This tablet was about six and a 
quarter inches long and one and three-eighths inches broad 
The snake is carved very delicately upon it. Squier and Davis 

say of the pipes and tab- 
lets thatthe circumstances 
under which they were 
discovered render it like- 
ly that they had a super- 
stitious origin, and were 
objects ot high regard and 
perhaps of worship. The 
feather-headed rattlesnake 
was, in Mexico, the symbol of Tezcatlippoca 
otherwise symbolized as the sun. Fig. 35. 
(2.) A pipe was found in the vicinity of 
Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is now in the 
possession of William S. Beebe. The bowl 
is carved to represent an eagle's head and 
back. Along the stem four rattle-snakes 
are stretched in life-like attitudes. On the 
back and sides of the pipe are liliputian fig- 
ures of men. carved in relief This pipe 
seems to contain the myth 
of the serpent and the 
bird, and at the same time 
represents the supersti- 
tion of the serpent pos- 
sessing everything which 
has the shape. The four serpents represent the superstition 
about the four quarters of the sky. See Fig. 36. 

(3.) The pipe which has been described by Squier and Davis, 
which represents a serpent coiled around the bowl, has been 
supposed by some to embody the East India symbol of the 
mahadeo, but by others as embodying the native American tra- 
dition of the serpent and the stump, or Manibozho and the pine 
tree. This pipe was found in an altar, and had evidently been 
offered to the sun, as it was cracked and smoked.* 

*Sqiiier and Davis say that other sculptures of the serpent coiled, in like manner, 
round the bowls of pipes have been found. One represents a variety not recognized. It 
had a broad, flat head, and the body is singularly marked. See Chap. XV., Figs. 3 and 4. 







liKg. 36.— Serpent Pipe from New Mexico. 



(4.) There is a relic which was found on the banks of Paint 
creek, on which the face of a Mound-builder is carved, and 
around the neck a large serpent is folded, the head and tail rest- 
ing together on the breast of the figure. The head is surmounted 
by a knot, resembling the scalp-lock of the Indians, but the face 
has markings upon it, as if to imitate the painting or tattooing 
common with the natives. This relic is a pipe, and yet it has a 
close relationship to certain stone idols which are common in 
this region. Thus we have the idols connected with the serpent 
symbol and the sun symbol in the same region, showing a com- 
bination of cults. It is carved in red sandstone, and is six inches 
in length and five inches in height. See Fig. 37. 

(5 ) A pipe found in Kentucky, now in the Canadian Institute 
at Toronto, represents the serpent coiled around the neck of a 
person, a tree growing by the side of the face. This at first 

sight seems to embody 
the myth of the serpent 
and the tree, but was 
plainly designed to em- 
body the myth about 
Manibozho and the pine 
tree attacked by the great 
serpent, his enemy 

(6.) On the old crater, 
a few miles southwest of 
Managua, in Nicaragua, 
five hundred feet above 
Lake Nijapa, are num- 
erous figures painted in 

Fig. 37.—iserpent and Mound-builder. j Amonc these is the 

coiled leathered serpent shown in the cut. It is three feet in 
diameter across the coil, forty feet up the perpendicular side of 
the precipice. This would seem to be identical with the Aztec 
Quetzatlcoatl, or the Quiche Gucumatz, both of which names 
signify "plumed serpent." See Fig. 38. 

(7.) The most numerous and suggestive class of relics is that 
which has been described by W. H. Holmes. They consist of a 
series of shell gorgets which contain the images of serpents upon 
them. The majority of these were found in east Tennessee, 
others in Georgia, others from Knoxville, Tennessee. Some of 
these are now in the Peabody Museum, others in the Natural 
History Museum in New York, others in the National Collection 
in Washington. Mr. Holmes says of them: "From a very early 
date in mound explorations, these gorgets have been brought to 
light, but the coiled serpent engraved upon their concave surfaces 
is so highly conventionalized that it was not at once recognized. 
Professor Wyman appears to have been the first to point out the 
fact that the rattle-snake was represented. Others have since 



made brief allusion to this fact. Among the thirty or forty- 
specimens which I have examined, the engraving of the serpent 
is, with one exception, placed upon the concave side of the disks, 
which is, as usual, cut from the most distended part of the 
Busyco7i perversum, or some similar shell. The great uniformity 
of these designs is a matter of much surprise. At the same 
time, however, there is no exact duplication. There are always 
differences in position, detail or number of parts. The serpent 
is always coiled, the head occupying the center of the disks. 
With a very few exceptions, the coil is sinistral. The head is 

Mflr. SS.—Plxvmed Serpent, Nicaragua. 

so placed that when the gorget is suspended it has an erect 
position, the mouth opening toward the right hand. To one 
who examines this design for the first time it seems a most 
inexplicable puzzle, a meaningless grouping of straight and 
curved lines, dots and perforations. We notice, however, a 
remarkable similarity of the designs, the idea being radically the 
same in all specimens, and the conclusion is soon reached that 
there is nothing hap-hazard in the arrangement of the parts, and 
that every line must have its place and purpose." See Plate. 

These serpent figures were evidently designed to symbolize 
the nature powers. In them we have the concentric circles, to 
represent the ^un. We find also the rotation of the sun repre- 
sented by the coil of the serpents. The coil is uniformly from 
left to right. The serpents are divided into four parts, to repre- 
sent the four seasons, or the four quarters of the sky. The 
neck of the serpent is covered by a conventional figure in the 
form of a loop, with dots along the side of the loop, possibly to 
represent stars. The eye is formed by concentric circles, which 


again is a sun symbol. The lines below the mouth are in the 
form of squares, and were designed to be symbols. 

These gorgets were buried with the bodies, showing that they 
were very sacred, and were evidently symbols of their religion,, 
perhaps were used as charms. Very few of these gorgets have 
been found in the mounds of Ohio, where the serpent effigies 
and sun symbols were so numerous in the earth-works, but the 
fact that serpent effigies and serpent pipes are so numerous there, 
would show that the same cult prevailed in both regions. See 

Here we discover the various symbols, such as the suastika, 
triskelis, the phallic symbol, and that which corresponds to the 
caduceus, and a vast number of symbols which seem to be esoteric 
allusions to the planetary system and solar conceptions of the 
remotest antiquity. There are no such symbols as the "chatra 
or umbrella," or the "taurines or oxheads," or "cervines or stag- 
heads," or "nagas or serpent heads" or "stupas or steelyard," but 
there are occasionally symbolic trees, crosses, and that which 
resembles the mahadeo and spectacle ornament, and the scepter, 
which is a rod bent like the letter Z. with ornamental ends. 
The solar wheel may also be recognized, though generally it 
is a wheel without the hub; the dot in the circle being notice- 
able, though the spokes are generally four in number. The 
crux-'ansata, or Nile key, is sometimes recognized. The sun, 
as a round boss surrounded by rays, which forms a prominent 
ornament in the east, and is also found in these shell gorgets, 
but there is no rosette known in this country. The union of 
the sun and moon is a very natural one, either astronomically or 
mythologically, hence we find this symbol is used. We con- 
clude from the examination of the figures which are inscribed 
upon the shell gorgets, that there was a system of nature wor- 
ship in the different pnrts of the continent, which embraced a 
knowledge of the heavenly bodies, such as the sun, moon, stars, 
four quarters of the sky, which possibly was designed to 
identify the revolutions of those bodies and perhaps to symbolize 
time, though the lack of uniformity in the number of circles on 
the sun gorgets and of the dots in the serpent gorgets renders it 
doubtful whether there was any calendar contained in them. 





In a previous paper we have considered the Serpent Symbol 
especially in regard to its prevalence in the Mississippi Valley. 
We found that it was prominent in the traditions of this region, 
that the mounds and earth works embodied the tradition and the 
symbol, and that many Archaeological relics contain the Serpent 

We propose to take it up now in its more extensive and wide 
spread appearance an 1 shall consider the specimens of the ser- 
pent symbol which arc found in the various parts of the Conti- 

The origin of the symbol is the especial point and the subject 
of inquiry will be whether it was derived from extraneous sources 
or was the result of a nature worship which had its growth upon 
this continent. The symbol appears among the civilized races 
as well as the uncivih'zed, but it is heie very elaborate. There 
seems also to be a progress from the simple to the complicated, 
from the rude to the highly finished ornament. This would indicate 
that it had its growth, and development upon the continent. But 
there are, on the other hand, certain peculiarities about the sym- 
bol which would indicate that it was the embodiment of a world 
wide tradition, and that there was a common source to the sym- 
bol as found in this and in other continents. There arc at least 
two sides to the subject and if we would arrive at intelligent con- 
clusions.we must consider the arguments on both sides, and ignore 
or reject nothing which may be a hint in either direction. 

We have said that there are grades of development in this ser- 
pent symbol in America, but it is worthy of notice that no connect- 
ed line of growth lias yet been traced, but merely different stages. 
This, then, is to be our method, taking the lower stages first 
we are to study analogies as we advance and base our conjectures 
on the law of development. There is, to be sure, always an 


uncertainty attending this idea of development, especially 
development in separate localities, for the connecting links 
can seldom be traced and other factors may come in which 
AvoLild constitute the real source rather than those which we are 
able to present. The law of development might, indeed, account 
for the symbol but there are questions of migration and of an in- 
truded culture which might seriously interfere. 

It should be said, however, at the outset that the symbol may 
have sprung from several different sources as follows: ist. From 
the totem system which was so prevalent among the native tribes, 
2nd. The system of nature worship and the presonification of nat- 
ure powers. 3rd. From the traditionary lore which may have 
either been handed down from an aboriginal ancestry or trans- 
mitted in various lines from people upon other Continents. These 
three sources must be taken into the account as we follow up the 
subject. Still we shall consider the Serpent symbol as found in 
different locations and shall follow geographical divisions in our 
treatment of it. 

The symbol appears on the two sides of the American Conti- 
n-ent. On the eastern coast it is very rude and primitive. On the 
western coast, or rather at the south-west, it is much more elab- 
orate. It has been held that there was an analogy between the 
symbol as found in the Mississippi Valley and Great Britain, and 
it has been conjectured that there was an historic connection be- 
tween the two. It is however noticeable that there are many 
striking analogies between the symbol as found in Mexico and 
Central America and in the Buddhists' temples of the island of 
Java, and the inquiry arrises whether there was not a connection 
between the western part of this continent and the Asiatic coast. 
It has been a favorite theory that the serpent symbol had a sep- 
arate crrowth on this continent and that there are three centers 


where its development has appeared. These analogies, however, 
must be considered even if the the theory falls. 

We proceed then, to consider the serpent symbol as it is found 
in America with special regard to its origin. We shall first con- 
sider the symbol as found in the Mississippi Valley, next, as it 
is furnished to us by the tribes of the Great West; and lastly as 
it is seen among the complicated and elaborate works of the civ- 
ilized races of Mexico and Central America. We have in this 
case a succession of stages which rise above one another in the 
line of culture; and a succession of steps in which the symbol 
seems to come up to a higher grade, though it is a question 
whether the law of development can account for all the phenom- 
ena presented. 

I. The serpent symbol prevailed as we have already shown, 
in the Mississippi Valley. The question is, did it spring from 



an original nature worship, or was it brought in by extraneous 

I. Our first inquiry will be as to the origin of the symbol among 
the Mound Builders. Was it a universal symbol or did it appear 
mainly among some particular tribe or race. The extent of the 
symbol is worthy of notice. The symbol is said to prevail in the 
State of New York. It certainly does exist to a certain extent 
in Ohio and we shall leave it for our readers to say whether it 
does not exist in various States further west. The author has 
found the serpent in many of the effigies of Wisconsin. In one 
locality near Mayville, a natural ridge had been modified by art 
so as to resemble a huge serpent. The ridge is nearly a thous- 
and feet long, fifty feet wide, and twenty feet high. The sides 
had been excavated so that it looked like a tortuous serpent with 
the head just resting upon the brow of the bluff. What is more 
the mound-builders had placed a large series of garden beds on 
the low land in the angle between the ridge or c^gy and the 
bluff, as if the design was to make the serpent serve for protection 
to the garden plats. 

Another place where the serpent effigy has been noticed, is at 
Green Lake. Here the serpent is found in two or three different 
shapes. In one place two serpents were found on the border 
of a very tortuous stream, the folds of the serpent and the bends 
of the streams seeming to correspond. See Fig. 46. 

These serpents are composed in part of a natural ridge which 
has been modified by art and a ridge which was altogether arti- 
ficial, the two blending together to bring out the semblance in 
a very striking manner. The ridge is very tortuous, and is sev- 
ered by the stream. The two parts of the ridge thus divided were 
taken as serpent effigies, but were modified so that the serpents 
should seem to have their heads rest near the stream but their 
tails, which were altogether artificial run back, parallel with the 

stream. These are 
remarkable effigies, 
as they show that 
nature worship or 
animism, had much 
to do with serpent 
worship, and sug- 

Fig. 46.— SERPENT EFFIGIES NEAR RIPON, WIS. gCStS Olie metliod in 

which it could have originated. 

It was evidently a freak of nature which suggested the symbol, 
as the stream and the broken ridge which formed its borders both 
resemble the serpent in their tortuosity, but the artificial part 
brings out this semblance very clearly, the folds of the serpent, 
and even the rattles being plainly seen in the earth- mold. 

There are many effigies in the immediate vicinity, representing 
panthers, buffaloes, wild-geese, squirrels, etc., one, that of a wild 



cat, havinc^ been placed on a natural rise of ground, in close prox- 
imity of the serpent effigies. This wild cat is a massive effigy 
and so covers the knoll as to be almost blended with the earth, 
but trans-forms the isolated hill into an immense animal, the hill 
itself is made to assum.e the attitude of the animal and to be pos- 
sessed with life and activity, by the presence of the effigy upon 

Another specimen of the serpent symbol is found in the same 
locality. Fig. 47. The serpent here is not a mere symbol, but is 
made to serve a practical purpose as well. There are two en- 
closures on two separate hills, between which rises a mineral 
spring. The enclosures both have openings toward the spring. 
One of them contains the serpent symbol, as the wall is in the 

shape of a serpent, and the 

opening or gateway is placed 
between the head of the ser- 
pent and the tail, as if there 
was a charm in the effigy itself 
which would give a double pro- 
tection. The enclosure is a 
small one, only sixty feet by 
one hundred and twenty feet 
in diameter, but the serpent is 
plainly seen in the wall sur- 
rounding it. In measuring the 
wall it was found that the folds 
of the serpent were uniform 
Fig, 47.-ENCLOSURE IN SHAPE OF SERPENT, throughou t the whole, the 
mean distance between each fold beinc: exactlv the same measure 
which is found to be very common in the breadth of the effigies, 
twenty-two feet, the outside being twenty-three feet, inside about 
twenty-one feet and the distance across fifteen feet and tlie open- 
ing for the gateway being about seventeen feet. 

A correspondence was noticed between the folds of this ser- 
pent effigy, and the tortuous line of the bluff on which the en- 
closure is placed. The bluff is about thirty feet high, and the 
enclosure surmounts its summit, but overlooks the stream beneath 
the bluff. 

The effigy resembles in some respects, the serpent ring which 
was discovered on the walls of the gymnasium, so called, at Chich- 
en Itza, but differs from it in that it is but a single serpent and yet 
the enclosure upon the corresponding bluff may have contained 
the companion to this, as the serpent effigies beside the stream 
below were companions to one another. It has been said that 
venomous serpents like the rattlesnake always go in pairs and it 
is noticeable that the symbols of the serpent frequently contain 
two, a male and female. Such is the case at least in the serpent 
ring just referred to. We have noticed also that the mounds in. 


Ohio present the symbol in its double capacity, the walls sur- 
rounding the enclosure being made in the shape of two massive 
serpents, either joined at the tail and with an opening between the 
heads, or joined at the heads with an opening between the tails. 
In this case, however, the effigy is a single serpent, and the open- 
ing is between the head and the tail. 

2. These effigies found in the earth-works of Wisconsin are in- 
teresting as they show the manner in which the Mound Builders 
borrowed the serpent symbol from objects of nature. The serpent in 
this case was not a totem or clan s},mibol, for the clan emblem of 
the region was a different animal, but it was a fetich which was 
suggested by the shape of the ground. This was a common 
practice with the Mound Builders. There are many places 
where the objects of nature would suggest the serpent effigy, and 
where the symbol was embodied in artificial structures. It is pos- 
sible that some of the serpent effigies may have been the embod- 
iment of tradition which prevailed but those to which we have 
referred were only animistic or fetichistic and were not mytholog- 
ical. Mr. \V. Pidgeon has referred to a serpent i,ooo feet long with 
a tortoise in his mouth as existing in Dakota, and has made out 
that many of the effigies were but embodiments of certain myths. 
Those which have been described by reliable authors are, how- 
ever, not mythological, or at least they have no such shape as 
would suggest that they were the embodiment of a myth, but 
on the contrary are so conformed to the ground as to show that 
they were animistic or fetichistic and not mythological. Yet 
the two might possibly be combined. 

Prof J. ¥.. Todd has described certain effigies as existing in 
Dakota under the title of "Boulder Mosaics." The effigies are 
formed out of standing stones resembling in this respect the lines 
of standing stones which exist at Avebur}% t^ngland, and other 
places. The Dakotas have a tradition that they came from 
the far East. Some have maintained that they brought into this 
country the symbolism which formerly prevailed in Great Britain 
and that on this account the resemblances between the works at 
Portsmouth and those at Avebury are very significant. The works 
at Portsmouth, however, are mounds and ridges and not standing 
stones. The description given by Prof Todd, is as follows: 

"A typical example, and the first to come to the writer's knowl- 
edge, was found on the summit of Keya Kapop, or Turtle point, 
three miles north of Wessington sprmgs in Jerauld county. The 
point is a high promentory-like hill, standing out on the western 
edge of the James River valley, above which it rises nearly 500 
feet. It is the northern end of a high ridge of drift constituting 
a well washed interlobular portion of the principal moraine. A 
view of Turtle point, and a portion of the ridge from the north- 
west is shown in Plate I. Upon the highest portion of the point 
is a low wood mound built of earth, perhaps fifty feet in diameter 


and three or four feet high. It does not differ materially from 
many that are found on the summit of bluffs along the James and 
Wisconsin. Its chief attraction is the gigantic figure of a turtle 
upon its southern slope, as is shown in Plate VII. This figure is 
formed of boulders, four to six inches in diameter, quite closely 
and regularly set, so as to describe its outline. The head, legs 
and tail are extended. Its general appearance, position and struct- 
ure are shown in No. 3." 

"This work, interesting as it is, sinks into insignificance when 
compared with a similar work upon Paha Wakan, or Medicine 
hill, near Blunt, in Hughes county. This hill is also a high in- 
terlobular portion of the principal moraine, and presents the same 
general features as Turtle point, as will be seen in a sketch of it, 
from the east, in No. 6. It rises above the surrounding plain 
about 200 feet, and nearly 400 feet above the adjoining valley 
of INIedicine creek. Its summit is flat and includes many acres. 
Granite and limestone boulders abound in profusion. Tepee rings, 
i. e., circles of boulders which were used in holding down the cov- 
ering of the conical tents used by the Dakotas, are very abun- 
dant upon the summit. A ^c\v mounds of ordinary size, are scat- 
tered in no apparent order. Near the northwestern angle of the 
summit platform is the gigantic serpent represented in No. 4. Its 
length measured roughly along its central line, following the 
crooks, is 120 paces. The general form, with length, breadth 
and nuniber and shape of crooks, are as faithfully represented, as 
a hasty sketch could give. The boulders comprising it are from 
six to twelve inches in length, and are laid much less closely than 
in the turtle. The direction of its northern half is N. 18° W. 
The prehcnce of the mound at its side seems to be accidental. 
The head is more carefully represented in No. 5. where an at- 
tempt is made to express the shape, size and position, of the boul- 
ders composing it. The eyes are much more expressive, than it 
would at first seem possible; to make them with such material. 
They have literally "a stony scare." They are formed of two 
oblong boulders neatly a foot in length. The angular head and 
heavy body, suggest the lattlesnake as the designer's model, but 
there is no clear representation of the rattles. Perhaps that was 
beyond the artist's inventive power. At C, in No. 4, the boul- 
ders have evidently been displaced, probably by water or frost, 
action, as that portion is on an inclined surface. 

This gigantic serpent was in good condition when seen in 1883. 
Mr. Todd further says: "Though this completes the list of "boul- 
der mosaics," it may not be out ot place to speak of a somewhat 
related work noted by the writer, in 1881, in Brown County a few 
miles northwest of Westport. On the right bank of Elm River 
were two quite conspicuous mounds, 270 paces apart, upon two 
symmetrical knolls. Beginning at the top of the northwestern 
one, a line of bones extended over the center of the other, and 















146 paces beyond, where it ended in a small pile of boulders. The 
bones were mostly the leg bones of buffalo, set up in the ground 
like stakes. That was before the land was in market.'' 

3. We have given this description because it illustrates how the 
superstition of the natives was connected with the serpent symbol. 
We hardly think that any historical tradition or any formal or in- 
herited serpent worship was here symbolized though the proxim- 
ity of the serpent to the turtle does suggest a myth which was 
common. We ascribe the effigy to that peculiar form of super- 
stition which was ready to seize upon any object in nature which 
might resemble an animal and then to make a divinity out of it, 
the idea being that the Great Serpent or the Great Turtle Spirit 
dwelt in the hill, and was to be worshiped as a divinity which 
haunted the place. The same superstition prevailed in Ohio and 
embodied itself in the Great Serpent there. A description of the 
Great Serpent Mound has already been given, (see Chap. Ill,) 
but as a new exploration has been made by W. H. Holmes, and 
a new interpretation oftered, we here furnish the description and 
the plates given by Mr. Holmes. "The valley of Brush Creek is 
bordered by an extremely rugged country abounding in high hills 
which reach an elevation of 600 feet above the bed of the Creek." 
The Great Serpent is upon one of these hills which extends out as 
a narrow spur, crescent shaped, into the gulch which borders the 
stream. "This spur narrows up and terminates in an abrupt prom- 
ontory, around the base of which a small branch from the gulch 
turns making the end of the promontory in the midst of the valley 
isolated and distinct. Along the rounded grassy crest of this 
ridge we can detect the obscure serpentine coils of the earth work, 
and descending a little to the left, and almost to the brink of the 
cliff, we reach the tail of the serpent. Beginning with a small pit 
at the terminal point, we follow the unfolding coil for two full 
turns and then advance along the body to its highest point upon 
the ridge. The curves are strong and even, and the body in- 
creases gradually in height and width as we advance. Upon the 
crest of the ridge we find ourselves at the beginning of three great 
double folds. Following these, we descend into a slight sag in 
the ridge caused by the encroachment of opposing drainage, and 
ascend again slightly to a point where the body straightens out 
along the ridge. Beyond this we reach the curious enlargement 
with its triangular and oval enclosures. Here the body embank- 
ment is divided into two parts, which respectively pass to the 
right and left of the enclosures. At the sides they descend 
slightly upon the slopes of the ridge, and at the widest part of the 
oval are somewhat obscure on account either of original confor- 
mation or of subsequent erosion. Beyond these breaks they con- 
tinue, closing entirely around the oval emban.kment within. From 
the point of junction the body continues for a short distance, per- 
haps forty feet, and then terminates in a rounded and slightly 






widened point. This terminal elevation is entirely omitted by 
Squier and Davis, but is noticed by more recent writers; and on 
account of the supposed presence of obscure auxiliary ridc^es of 
earth extendin;:^ down the slopes to the right and left, it is likened 

to the body of a frog by Mr. 
McLean. These auxiliary ridges, 
and the minor appended features 
recognized by Squier and Davis 
and by some recent visitors, are 
too obscure to be identified with 
absolute certainty, and I consid- 
er it unsafe to introduce them 
into my illustration; but the en- 
tire body of the serpent, and the 
peculiar features of the enlarged 
portion, are all distinctly tracea- 
ble as shown approximately in 
the accompaning map, and leave 
no doubt in the mind as to their 
artificial character." 

"I wish now to call attention 
to a few points bearing upon the 
origin and significance of the 
work and its possible relation to 
the topography of the site. The 
use of the serpent by our abo- 
riginal races has been well nigh 
universal, so that we need not 
hesitate to class this specimen 
with other products of their re- 
ligion, and we should naturally 
expect to find the counterpart 
of each feature in other represent- 
ations, ancient and modern. Most 
of the attempts to throw light 
upon the more extraordinary fea- 
tures of the work have been made 
through the medium of oriental 
philosophy; but it is manifestly 
wrong to go thus out of our way 
to seek a symbolism for the oval 
enclosure as do Squier and Davis, 
who liken it to the symbolic egg 
Fig. 48.-ROCK IN SHAPE OF SERPENT, ^^ ^jj ^^.^^j^j philosophy; nor 

need we make a serious effort to combat the idea that the 
terminal portion is a frog as suggested by Mr. McLean. It would 
not seem unreasonable that the former feature should be simply 
the eye of the effigy; but we have another explanation more in 

TUE serpe:nt symbol. 91- 

accord, perhaps, with the analogies of native ceremonial art. The 
heart, which represents the life, is made a prominent feature in 
all superstitious, delineations of living creatures as shown by a 
multitude of examples. When we restore the neck and head 
of the reptile, omitted by Squier and Davis and misinterpreted 
by others, the strange oval takes the position of the heart and in 
all probability marlcs the site of the ceremonies that must have 
been connected with this work. This leads to a consideration 
of the proper identification of the head of the effigy, and the re- 
lations of the natural to the artificial features of the site. From 
the point of view of my second illustration we have a comprehen- 
sive view of the serpent ridge. Having the idea of a great ser- 
pent in the mind, one is at once struck with the remarkable con- 
tour of the bluff, and especially of the exposure of rock which 
readily assumes the appearance of a colossal reptile lifting its front 
from the bed of the stream. The head is the point of rock, the 
dark lip-like edge is the muzzle, the light-colcred under side is 
the white neck, the caves are the eyes, and the projecting masses 
to the right are the protruding coils of the body. The varying 
effects of light must greatly increase the vividness of the impres- 
sions, and nothing could be more natural than that the Sylvan 
prophet, secluding himself in this retired part of the wilderness, 
should recognize this likeness and should at once regard the prom- 
ontory as a great manito. His people would be led to regard it 
as such and the celebration of feasts upon the point would readi- 
ly follow. With a mound-building people, this would result in 
the erection of suitable enclosures and in the elaboration of the 
reptile, that it might be the more real. The natural and artificial 
features must all have related to one and the same conception. 
The point of naked rock was probably at first and always recog- 
nized as the head of both the natural and the modified body. It 
was to the Indian the real head of the great serpent manito." 

3. In reference to this interpretation we would quote from Mr. 
E. G. Squier's work on "Serpent Symbol." He says: "We may 
expect to find the strongest signs of affinity in religious beliefs, 
and conceptions, in traditions, and in such customs as are arbi- 
trary, and not the spontaneous or the natural growth of a peculiar 
condition of things. Upon the plains of the West, nature's grand 
pasture ground, we find the roving hunter, chasing the buffalo,, 
from one extremity of its vast range to the other, and in his habits 
and equipments exhibiting an entire harmon\' with his condition 
and circumstances. His necessities require fleetness, and all ac- 
commodating nature has bestowed upon him a form of proper 
muscular development, and capable of the requisite endurance. 
The skins of the buffalo he has slain, form the covering of his 
lodge, his bed, and his robe; its flesh sustains hini, and from its 
hoofs, horns, and bones, he fashions his implements of the chase, 
his ornaments and domestic utensils. Its white skull, bleaching 


on the open plain, has become his "medicine;" shadowy buffaloes 
fill his wild legends; and the black bull is an emblem of evil and 
malignant portent, while the white cow is a token of auspicious 

significance." "In the gloom of the "medicine 

lodge," are taught the mysteries of the Wabeno, and the potency 
of the nuiemonic signs by which the supreme powers may be suc- 
cessfully invoked, and their traditional songs perpetuated.". . . 

"As the result of a pretty extended investigation of the subject, 
it may be affirmed that the predominant religious conceptions 
of America have found their expression in some modification 
of what is usually denominated "Sun Worship," (nature worship) 
but which might, with more propriety be defined to be an adora- 
tion of the Powers of Nature. This seems to have been, through- 
out the globe, the earliest form of human superstition, dating back 
far beyond the historical, and even beyond the traditionary period 
of man's existence. It seems to lie at the basis of all the primi- 
tive mythological systems with which we are acquainted, and may 
still be found under a complications of later engraftments and re- 
finements, derivative and otherwise in all the religious of Asia. 
It may be traced, in America, from its simplest or least clearly 
defined form, among the roving hunters and squalid Esquimaux 
of the North, through every intermediate stage of development, 
to the imposing systems of Mexico and Peru, where it took a form 
nearly corresponding with that which it at one time su.stained on 
the banks of the Ganges, and on the plains of Assyria." .... 
"In the absence of a written language, or of forms of expression 
capable ot conveying abstract ideas, we can readily comprehend 
the necessity, among a primitive people, of a symbolic system. 
That symbolism in a great degree resulted from this necessity, is 
very obvious; and that, associated with man's primitive religious 
systems, it was afterwards continued, when in the advanced stage 
of the human mind the previous necessity no longer existed, is 
equally undoubted. It thus came to constitute a kind of sacred 
laneuare. and became invested with an esoteric significance, un- 
derstood only by the few." 

This view of Mr. ¥.. G. Squier is worthy of notice as it shows 
how the serpent .symbol may have arisen in America. Still, the 
interpretation of the effigy and the generalization of Mr. Squier 
do not necessarily preclude the idea. which we have advanced else- 
where that there may have been an historic connection between 
some of the serpent symbols in Ohio and those in other countries, 
Mr. Squier himself has advanced this idea and in the same work 
from which we have quoted, refers to the analogy between the 
works at Portsmouth and those at Avebury in Great Britain. 

II. The prevalence of the serpent worship among the tribes 
of the far West will next engage our attention. We have here 
very few archaeological tokens but we have the traditions of the 


people and the customs which perpetuate the system. It is hardly 
known from what source these strange customs came but they 
seem to be sacredly observed. The Moquis have the most re- 
markable forms of serpent worship. They are not alone for there 
are other tribes which have modified forms of the same supersti- 
tion and these are taken as the best representatives. 

The description of the Moqui snake dance, has been given by 
a v/riter in Siceuce. It is as follows: " There were two cos- 
tumes, that of the Antelope gens, under whose auspices the 
dance was performed, and that of the Snake order, the performer. 
The legend of this dance is the legend of the first arri\'al of the 
Moquis, at their present habitat. The Antelope gens, were the 
first to arrive, and were guided to their present location by the 
snake woman. The snake order was instituted to commemorate 
this ev^ent, each performer, both the antelopes and the snakes, wore 
two or more strings of shell beads around his neck, and suspend- 
ed from them a brilliant, haliotis shell. The breasts and upper 
arms, were decorated in pink clay, with the conventional snake 
design, in its zigzag line. Suspended from the back of the sash, 
hung a coyote skin, with a tail which just reached the ground. 
At the knee they wore the regular garter, and just below the knee 
a rattle consisting of a tortoise shell, with attached antelope hoofs. 
The dance itself was very weird. Each dancer held a live snake 
in his mouth, while a companion followed with a feather wand 
in his hand, distracting the attention of the snake. "The low 
chant of the antelopes, the dismal though rythmical clack of the 
rattles, the peculiar motions of the dancers, the breathless atten- 
tion of the spectators, all gave this part of the performance a wierd 
character." At the close of the dance, the snakes w^ere dropped 
in a circle and then seized and carried out, and down to the foot 
of the Mesa, and there released. The object of this part of the 
ceremony, was that they might find a raingod, whose form is that 
of a gigantic rerpent. The snakes which were released at the four 
quarters of the earth, and were supposed to act as messengers to 
the raingod. The part of the heavens from which rain came indi- 
cated the region where the god was at the time, that he received 
the message. One part of the performance was to draw in the 
form of a circle with sacred meal and two diameters in the form 
of a cross, representing the cardinal points, and another oblique 
line to represent the zenith and nadir." 

The underlying ideas which have given rise to this dance are 
unknown, but in the minds of the Moqui Indians, it is simply an 
invocation, a ceremony having for its sole purpose, the procuring 
of rain, yet the fact that there is an esoteric idea connected with it, 
seems to point to another and a deeper signification. The rites 
connected with serpent worship, ha\'e always been secret, and, 
while it has been so widely distributed in one form or another, 
that there is hardly a nation or tribe, which does not carry traces 


of it in its history, but little is known about its details or origin. 
The worship of the serpent has been associated with the strangest 
conceptions of the baibarous, and semi-civilized minds, as for ex- 
ample the principles of reproduction, among the Hindoos, and 
with the idea of divine wisdom among the Egyptians There is 
some evidence that these ideas were held as a part of the esoteric 
system, which has been so secret, and which has not yet been 
penetrated, so as to be explained. The singular part of the sym- 
bol, and the myth is that there is so much of the primitive nature 
worship, which seems to be indigenous to the soil and at the same 
time so much similarity to the sacred mysteries, which prevailed 
in historic countries. It would seem from this that a double sys- 
tem existed, one part of it, — that part which is best known, — be- 
ing conformed to the superstitious notions of the common people 
among which it prevailed, but a part of it, and that the most, elab- 
orate and complicated, being still held, by the priests or "medicine 
men," in great secrecy, as an inherited legacy which can possibly 
be traced to historic countries. It is well known that the Eleu- 
sinian mysteries contain much that was derived from a primitive 
nature worship, and it is supposed that the druidical rites were 
derived from the sam.e source. We do not know that the rites 
or symbols, which we have described as so common in variou.s 
parts of America, can be traced to either the Druids or the Hin- 
doos, but there are points of resemblance, which suggest an his- 
toric origin. The progress of thought, and the growth of relig- 
ion may however account for these, and the parallel development 
may be the important subject to study rather than the historic 
connection, yet we cannot deny the fact, that the civilization 
of America, was influenced by the symbolism of other countries. 
Until we have accounted for these remarkable resemblances, by 
the theory just proposed, denial can be practiced in one direc- 
tion as well as in another, at the same time one hypothesis is as 
good as another." 

"That the serpent was intimately connected with Saba;ism, can- 
not be doubted, for the prevailing emblem of the solar god was 
the serpent; and wherever the sabasan idolatry was the religion, 
the serpent was the sacred symbol." 

"But the universality of serpent worship, and the strong traces 
which it has left in astronomical mythology, seem to attest an 
origin, coeval with idolatry itself."* "It entered into the myth- 
ology of every nation, it consecrated almost every temple, it sym- 
bolized almost every deity, was imagined in the heavens, stamped 
on the earth, and ruled in the realms of everlasting sorrow."t 
"When the Egyptians would represent the universe, they deline- 
ated a serpent, bespeckled with variegated scales, devouring the 
emblem of the sun. The dragon was also used as a symbol of the 

*See Science article on the Snake Dance. 
tSee Deane's Serpent Worship, page 39. 


same form of worship. The three symbols, the sun, the phallus, 
and the serpent are sometimes combined. All of these facts go 
to show that there was at least a common conception at the basis 
of the symbol, even if a common historical origin cannot be dis- 
covered. It would seem from the snake dance that nature wor- 
ship was the source of the symbol. The same idea is conveyed 
by the traditions and myths prevalent among the wild tribes. The 
Shoshoni philosopher believes that a monster serpent god sup- 
ports the sky with his back. But the sky itself is ice, as it bears 
the color of ice, which the serpent abraids with his scales and 
causes the ice dust to fall upon the earth. In the winter time it 
falls as snow but in the summer time it melts and falls as rain. 
The form of this serpent is seen in the rainbow of colors, it^is 
then the serpent of the storm." 

This conception of the serpent is, however, not confined to the 
Shoshonis, it is a common belief that the lightning is a serpent. 
This symbol is frequently used to signify the rain god or the 
storm god. The gesture sign for rain is made by holding the 
hands before the shoulders with the fingers pendant as if to rep- 
resent the drops; but for lightning the forefinger points upward 
and is brought down with great rapidity with a sinuous undulat- 
ing motion. This sign was common among the Apaches, Shos- 
honis, and other Indians of the West. There are, also, pictures 
which contain the serpent as a symbol for lightning much more 
distinctly than this gesture language. Pictures were discovered 
by Mr. N. H. Jackson on the decorated walls of an estufa in the 
Pueblo de Jemez which symbolized lightning; one of them as an 
arrow shooting from the sky, but the other as a crooked feather 
headed serpent, both of them shooting from two semi-circles 
which were symbolical of the sky or cloud. The inscribed rocks 
of Colorado contain pictures of the serpent associated with hu- 
man and animal figures, though it is unknown whether these were 
designed to symbolize nature powers, or whether they were the 
representatives of the totems of the tribes, or were the records 
of the people, or mere figures which were drawn by the fancy 
of the people.* [See Fig. 49.] The pictographs discovered by 
Lieut. Whipple of the Pacific Railroad survey on the Rocky Dell 
Creek in the Stake Plains, [See Fig. 50.] contain a figure of a non- 
descript animal. It was interpreted by the Pueblo Indians as the 
great water snake created by Montezuma to give rain and preserve 
the lives of those who should pray to him. They described the 
snake as being as large around as a man's body and of exceeding 
great length, slowly gliding upon the water. They say they smoke 
and pray to the sun. The moon is the younger sister of the sun; 
the stars are their children; all are worshiped. Besides these is 
the great snake to whom they are to look for life. Rattlesnakes, 

*See N. H. Holmes' account of Rock Inscriptions, Hayden's Survey, 1876, p. 402, PI. XLIII, 
Nos. 2 and 3. 



frogs, and all animals living near the water arc sacred among the 
Puebloes because of their association with the water which is re- 
garded as a great blessing. Apaches, however, do not regard 
these animals as sacred but they pay particular veneration to 
bears. t The Zunis have the serpent as a comm.on symbol. 


III. We now turn to the serpent symbol as found in Mexico 
and Central America. Serpent worship seemed to prevail through- 
out this entire region and was common both among the Nahua 
and Maya races. It is well known that there were two great 


centres of population in prehistoric times, and two parallel lines 
of history and civilization, namely, in Mexico and Central Ameri- 
ca. It is remarkable, however, that as we examine the monuments 
in both sections, we find the serpent symbol very prominent. !;^It 
is supposed that the Toltecs were the more ancient people and 

+See Report upon the Indian Tribes by Lieut. Whipple, p. 38. 


that the Maya history and civilization preceded that of the Na- 
huas, but in both the serpent symbol appeared, and, so far as 
we can ascertain, had the same general significance. We do not, to 
be sure, find the serpent as conspicuous in the architecture of the 
northern city of Mexico as in the more ancient cities of the South, 
such as Uxmal, Palenque, Chichen Itza, but we find it very promi- 


nent in the relics of art such as the calendar stones, the vases, 
and vessels of pottery and other sculptured stone relics. The 
manuscripts or codices which have been transmitted through the 
hands ot the Nahua scribes have the serpent symbol in great 
profusion. But on the other hand the bas-relief stucco ornaments 
and hieroglyphic tablets of the southern kingdom have the sym- 
bol very prominently represented. It would seem from this that 
the serpent worship was very prominent in both races and was 
transmitted from one race to the other, or was drawn either from 
primitive customs and superstitions and developed in parallel 

[I.] We propose to describe the various specimens of ancient 
art, which contain the serpent symbol, and shall give a number of 
cuts to illustrate the point. There arc many relics in 
Mexico which contain the serpent symbol. Dr. Rau says of these 
relics: "the particular attention paid to snakes by the inhabitants 
of Anahuac is exemplified in the collection by a number of mould- 
ings and relics in clay representing those reptiles in various atti- 



tudes. Several specimens show a snake coiled on the back 
of a turtle and in the act of biting its head. In some of these 
representations the lower part of the neck of the turtle exhibits a 
human face. This curious group is quite typical and probably 
refers to some tradition or to a religious conception of the Aztecs. 
A coiled snake with uplifted head is hkewise frequently met 
among the Mexican terra-cottas, and a number of productions 
of their character can be seen in the National Museum." He 
says "one of the most elaborate Mexican figures of the col- 
lection represents a man seated with the hands resting on the 
knees and bearing on his back another human figure is so 
placed that its head surmounts that of the first, while its hands 
press against the forehead and its feet rest on the shoulders of the 
lower figure. The most conspicuous feature consists in two 
serpents which, descending from the head-dress of the upper 
figure, encompass the group on both sides and rest their heads 
beneath the feet of the upper figure." [See Fig. 51.] 

A still more admirable specimen of Mexican pottery, and as far 





as the general outline is concerned, might readily be taken for a 
vessel of Etruscan or Greek origin. The peculiar ornamenta- 
tion, however, stamps it at once as a Mexican product of art. 
The vessel may be compared to a pitcher with two handles 
standing opposite to each other, and with two mouths projecting 
between them. Each handle is formed by two snakes crossmg 
their tails and resting their heads on the rim, and the flat 
base of the vessel is moulded in the shape of a coiled serpent. 
Another beautiful Mexican vase [See Fig. 52.] of somewhat glob- 
ular shape is remarkable for its elaborate raised ornamentation 
which consists of four entwined snakes and four masks placed at 



equal distances from each other. The vessel stands on three feet, 
presenting beautifully executed eagle's heads. 

There are many other specimens of art adornments besides 
these. Bancroft speaks of the specimens of art at Tezcuco, the 
ancient rival of Mexico, in the northwest part of the town. He 
says: "AIa}-er found a shapeless heap of bricks, adobes and pot- 
tery. In the top were several large basaltic slabs. The rectan- 
gular stone basin with sculptured sides shown in the cut, was 
found in connection with this heap and preserved in the Penasco 
collection in Mexico." [See Fig. 53.] 


This has been described as representing a conflict between a 
serpent and a bird, and attention has been called to the cross as 
a symbol of nature worship. The serpent was a symbol of the 
lightning, the bird of the winds, and the cross of the point of the 
compass, and it is possible that this was what was intended.* 

Bradford states that lying directly under the gate-way an idol 
has been preserved nearly perfect and representing a rattlesnake 
painted in bright colors, and Dupaix mentions the following 
specimens. At Xochicaico, on the western shore of the lake is a 
coiled serpent in red porphyry lyi feet in diameter, and 9 feet 
long if uncoiled. A serpent cup, or a cup in the shape of a coiled 
serpent with the head projecting for a handle, w^as found at Santa 
Catolina; the material of black porous volcanic stone, and a 
rattle-snake, 8^ feet long and 8 inches in diameter near Atlixco 
sculptured in high relief on the flat surface of a hard brown stone. 
In the cloisters behind the Dominican Convent is a noble speci- 
men of the great idol, almost perfect and of fine workmanship. 
This monstrous divinity is represented as swallowing a human 
victim which is seen crushed in its horrid jaws." "The corner 
stone of the Lottery Office is described as the head of the serpent 
idol, not less than 70 feet long when entire." "A house on the 

*See Prehistoric World, p. 153, 



street corner on the south-cast side of the Plaza rested on an 
altar of black bay salt, ornamented with the tail and claws of a 
reptile." Mayer dug up in the court yard of the University two 
feathered serpents of which he gives cuts as well as several other 
relics found within the city limits. Senior Gondra gives plates 
from nine Mexican musical instruments, one of which is of very 
peculiar construction; the top, shaped like a coiled serpent, is of 
burnt clay resting on the image of a tortoise carved from wood, 
and that on a base of tortoise shell. These various specimens 
of art in Mexico illustrate one point. The myth of the serpent 
and the tortoise was evidently iamiliar to the Nahua races. 

Besides these, may be mentioned the Aztec calendar stone, 
which always had a serpent around its edge, and generally a face 
representing the sun in the center, and various figures and hiero- 
glyphics the division of time. There are many specimens of 
calendars in Mexico, the chief cf which is the one which has been 
so often described, situated at present in the National Museum 


in Mexico. A simpler calendar than this has been found and 
described. We furnish a cut Fig. 54, taken from Biart's "History 
of the Aztecs," and kindly loaned to us by A. C. McClurg & Co., 
The author says "the Aztec cycle was represented by a circle 
with a picture of the sun in the center; around this circle from 



right to left t?icre were representations of the four symbolic signs 
of the year. The first year was called Tochtli,i\\Q rabbit; the 
second, y^<r<^//, the reed ; the third Ttr/'c-?//, the flint ; the fourth, 
Calii, the house. It will be noticed that the folds of the serpent 
■which surrounds the cycle, divide it into four periods of thirteen 
years, and that these rings at the same time mark the car- 
dinal points. This is a very remarkable figure. It shows how 
the serpent symbolized the cycle of time. It seems to have come 
a conventional use, and to have hzcw taken out from the range 
of the nature powers. Yet the serpent, and the sun are almost 
always associated together in the calendars; as if the powers of 
nature were to be symbolized by them as well as the divisions 
of time. 

This brings up the suggestion that much of mythology was 
embodied in the calendar stone. The cosmic serpent has been 
extensively symbolized in various parts of the world, and the 
question is whether the same conception and myth were em- 
bodied in these calendars. 


[II.] We next take up the line of Architecture. -'One peculiari- 
ty of the serpent symbol is noticeable here. The serpent is repre- 
resented in relief as a prominent ornament. This is the case 
in the facade of the so-called " House of the Nuns," at Uxmal. 
[See I'-ig. 55.] We quote from Bancroft who says: "Two serpents 
each witli a monstrous head, between the open jaws of which a hu- 
man face appears, and the tail of a rattle-snake placed near and 
above the head of either end of the building, almost entirely sur- 
round the front above the lower cornice, dividing the front surface, 
by folds and interlacing of their bodies, into square panels, that 
is, It seems to have been the aim ot the builders to form these 
panels by the folds of these two mighty serpents, and the work 



is so described by all visitors; but it appears from an cxanination 
of the folds, that the serpent whose head and tail are sliown on 
the right only encloses really the first panel, and that each other 
panel is surround by the enclles body of a serpent without head 
or tail. The scales or feathers on the serpent's body are some- 
what more clearly defined than indicated in the engraving, as is 
proved by Charnay's photograph." . . . "They are put together 
by small blocks of stone exquisitely worked and arranged with 
the nicest skill and precision. The heads of the serpents are 
adorned with pluming feathers and tassels." At Chichen-ltza 
there is a pyramid which has a stairway whose balustrade is 
formed b}' a pair of immense serpents; its base is 197 by 202 ft., 
its height 75 ft., and its summit platform 61 by 64 ft. A stairway 
leads up the northern slope 44 ft. wide containing 90 steps, hav- 
ing solid balustrades which terminate at the botton in tvvo im- 
mense serpent's heads 10 ft. long, with open mouths and pro- 
truding tongues. Near this pyramid is the building which is 
called by Stephens the Gymnasium. It consists of two parallel 


walls 30 by 274 ft., 26 ft. high and 120 ft. apart. The inner 
walls facing each other present a plain, undecorated surface; but 
in the center of each, about 20 ft. from the ground, is a stone 
ring 4 ft. in diameter and 13 in. tiiick with a hole 19 in. in di- 
ameter through the center; surrounded by two sculptured ser- 
pents as m the above cut. [Szc Fig. 56.] This structure is 
very similar to the one at Uxmal, which was covered with sculp- 
tured decorations, including two entwined serpents, while from 


the center of each of the fagades projected a stone ring fixed in 
the wall by means of a tenon. 

It may be a mere coincidence yet it is worthy of notice that 
serpents are arranged in pairs in many places. The calendar 
stone of Mexico contains two serpents which form the outer cir- 
cle of the stone and which surround the complicated symbols in 
the center of which is the face, supposed to be the face of the sun. 
These serpents are regarded by some as the symbol of the great 
cycle of time and the ornaments or symbols enclosed by them 
are supposed to represent the years in the cycle, the days of the 
year, the number of days in the month, and the week days. There 
are, however, many places where the serpent is single, and again 
in other places it is four fold, so that we cannot press this point 
too closely. And }-et in the architecture the double serpent is 

2. Another peculiarity of the architecture of this region is that 
the serpent symbol is frequently found connected with temples 
and religious edifices. Bancroft says in reference to the Gym- 
nasium and the building at Uxmal where the serpent ring 
was found, "it is easy to imagine that the grand promenade be- 
tween the northern and southern palaces or temples was along 
a line between these walls, and that these sculptured fronts and 
rings were important in connection with religious rites and pro- 
cessions of priests." 

There was in Mexico also a famous temple dedicated to the 
god of war. OfthisAcosta says: "it had a very great circuite, 
and within a faire court. It was built of great stones, and in 
fashion of snakes tied one to another." Solace describes the tem- 
ple: "The top of the truncated pyramid on which the idols of 
TTuitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Tlaloc, the god of rain, were 
placed, and was 40 ft. square, and reached by a stair way of 120 
steps. On this was the chapel wherein, behind curtains, sat 
Huitzilopochtli on a throne supported by a blue globe. From 
this, supposed to represent the heavens, projected four staves 
with serpent's heads by which the priests carried the god when 
he was brought before the public. The image bore on its head 
a bird of wrought plumes whose head and beak were of burnished 
gold. Its right hand leaned upon a staff. His body was girt 
with a large golden snake and adorned with various lesser fig- 
ures of animals made of gold and precious stones, which orna- 
ments and msigna have each their peculiar meaning. One of 
the names of Quetzalcoatl, the chief god of the Mexicans, was 
the feathered snake. The entrance to his round temple in Mexico 
represented the jaws of a tremendous snake. Quetzalcoatl disap- 
peared in Goatzacoalco, the snake corner ; and a ship of snakes 
brought him to Tlapalla. The driving away of Quetzalcoatl by 
Tezcatlipoca, his enemy, was symbolized by the figure of the 
god cutting up a snake. This may have been intended to rep- 


resent the conflict between the sun god, or tiic god of light, and 
the night god, or the god of darkness. Or the other snake may- 
be the symbol of moisture and the god of death and drouth, 
fights the snake, as the symbol of the plant life. Dr. Brinton and 
Mr. Edward T\-lor maintain that Quetzalcoatl was the sun, and that 
the history of tht god was designed only as personifications of the 
sun and its various qunlities. Bancroft seems to think that both 
of the divinities of the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl the sun god, and the 
god of war, had a nature basis, and as Mars was regarded as the 
god of Spring, so the Aztec god of war was associated with the 
rain god, and was the source of the yearly life of the plant world. 
If the snake signifies in one place time, in another world, in one 
other instance water or rain, the yearly rejuvenation of germs 
and blossoms, the eternal circle of nature, domination, soothsay- 
ing, it is quite proper that all these qualities are found united 
in one god. Just as the snake changes its skin every year, so 
does Huitzilopochtli whose mother Flora, is a snake goddess, 
the idea of the yearly renewal of nature being also connected with 
that of time lorevcr young, and the Aztecs therefore encircle 
their c\-cle with the snake as the emblem of time. 

[III.] ^^'e turn now to the hierogl\'phics which contain the ser- 
pent symbol. 

The serpent in Mexico was used to symbolize three things : 
1st. The cycle of time. 2nd. The Lightning as one of nature's 
powers. 3rd. The attribute of a divinity and the name of an an- 

In its first use it often appeared in the codices. In some cases 
four serpents were coiled so as to form the sides of a square. 
Four squares were brought together, possibly to represent 
the four quarters of the globe, or four great divisions of 
tmie. In the midst of the figure was the face of the sun; the eye, 
protruding tongue and fiery rays emanating from the face, all of 
them being significant of the nature powers. Dr. Thomas thinks 
that the serpents represented the four divisions and counts 13 
rings on the body of each serpent, making 52 years out of the 
combined figure. The position of the four serpents might, how- 
ever, be designed to represent the four quarters of the sky, and the 
whole figure might be considered a constellation, the sun being 
the central object, the two purposes being combined, namely, 
to symbolize the divisions ofthe celestial regions and to enumer- 
ate the years ofthe calendar. Astronnmy and chronology were 
connected in the oriental countries and \*e may suppose that they 
were in this country. The calendar stone in Mexico has been the 
subject of much study. [See Fig. 57.] Dr. Philip Valentini regards 
it as a symbol of chronology. The four figures in the center sur- 
rounding the face signifies the four periods of time. The animal 
heads in the second circle give the names ofthe months, twenty in 
number. The dots in the next circle and the grain of corn in the 



fourth circle, together make the days of the year. The figures 
in the fifth circle between the towers and the pointers, he thinks 
signify tlie 52 years of the cycle, and the two serpents surround- 
ing the whole signify that it was a calendar, the serpent being a 
symbol of the great cycle. In this respect the calendar stone 
and the Dresden codex would agree, both being significant of 
divisions of time, and the serpents in both cases signifying the 


great cycle. There are codices, however, which differ from this 
one and yet they contain the serpent symbol. 

We present a cut from the manuscript Troano. [See Plate IX.] 
This is supposed to be a record offcasts, a sort of priest's calen- 
dar, and the symbol on the plate would seem to indicate that 
such was the case. It was the custom at the feast to bear certani 
images around the city or the courts of the temple and to deposit 
them at the different gates. We have in this plate the figure 
of a man with a grotesque face and head bearing an image 
on his back. Below this we have a priest sitting in the door of a 
house apparently depositing certain offerings before an altar; the 
house being indicated by the flat roof and the altar by tongues of 
fire, and the offerings by the round objects before the priest. 
The serpent figure is found in the lower division. It seems to be 
twined around a column. It has four tails and a plumed head. 

Plate IX. 


The priest stands before the serpent holding a decapitated bird in 
his hand. Between the priest and tlie serpent are several figures 
which are difficult to make out. 

Dr. Thomas makes all of these figures symbols of time. He 
says : "I think it probable that these are cinerary urns giv^en as 
symbolic indications of the idea that the years have closed; as the 
ashes of the dead rest in the urns, so the ashes of the years may 
be said to rest in these vessels. The idea seems to be borne out 
by the fact that the vessel in the middle division of another plate,"' 
has on it the figure of a cross-bones, on top of which are placed 
three other symbols. Possibly they may represent ears of maize 
or tortillas cast into the vessels. A vessel in the same division 
on this plate IX contains fruits or goards, and a fish with 
bread seems to be offered to the serpent. Dr. Thomas's essay 
is so obscure as to be difficult to make out and yet it is possible 
that the interpretation of the figures as symbols of time may be 
the correct one. The serpent at any rate may represent the 
great Divinity as it does in the Idols and in the calendars. 

[IV.] Wq turn now to the Mexican idols and the symbols which 
they contain, i. We would first call attention to the resemblance 
between the idols in Mexico and the cultureheroes of the Iroquois., 
Both were represented as covered with snakes. The hair and 
shoulders of Atotarho bristled with snake heads as that of Medusa 
did. The idols of Mexico were wreathed with snake heads, but the 
hair and face of the divinity are not so manifestly human as in 
the case of the culture hero. It would seem, however, that the- 
superstition fastened itself upon the form of divinity everywhere, 
and made the serpent thes>-mbol of the supernatural power both 
with the culture hero and the war god. It would seem as if there 
was a progress in nature worship, and that the same symbol, 
which among the Iroquois was so expressive, became among the 
Mexicans very complicated and still more significant. 

The first idol which we shall describe is one found in connec- 
tion with the goddess of death in Mexico. [Plate X.] This is 
described by Bancroft as follows: "The idol was first brought to 
light in grading the Plaza in August, 1790. It is an immense 
block of bluish grey porphyry, about 10 ft. higli, 6 ft. wide and 
thick, sculptured on front, rear, top and bottom in a most com- 
plicated and horrible combination of human, animal and ideal 
forms. Vasco de Gama first expressed the opinion in which 
other authors coincide, that the front shown in the cut represents 
the goddess of death, Teoyaomiqui, whose duty it was to bear 
the souls of dead warriors to the house of the sun. The rear 
view of the idol represents HuitzilopochtU, god of war, and hus- 
band of the female divinity whose emblems are carved on the 
front. The bottom of the monument bears various sculptured 
designs not shown in the cut, which are thought to represent 

*See Plate XXVIII Dresden Codex contribuli )ns to N. A. Ethnology, Vol. V. 





Mictlantecutli, god of the infernal regions, the last of this cheer- 
ful trinity; goddess of death, god of war, and god of hell, three 
distinct deities united in one idol according to the Aztec cate- 
chism. The idol was removed to the University and until 1 82 1 
was kept buried in the court yard, that it might not kindle anew 
the aboriginal superstitions. 

The analysis of this idol and the examination of its different 
parts will bring out the following remarkable features, i. The 
shape of the idol is that of the cross. 2. It is a combination of 
a human figure and a serpent form; no other animal is represented, 

3. There is a combination of kingly drapery and serpent folds. 

4. There are four hands plainly visible with the palms extended 
and turned out, with figures of rattles between the hands. 5. 
There seem to be two heads, the serpent head above and the 
human head below ; the serpent head having teeth and fangs visi- 
ble; the human head being a death head. The eyes are made 
with rings around them the same as Tlaloc the god of rain always 
has. 7. The serpent head consists of massive folds bound 
together and fringed, but with cross hatchings to represent the 
seroent's skin. 8. The shoulders of the idol or the arms of the 


cross arc adorned with the teeth of a serpent and the forked 
tongue below the teeth. 9. The fringe which forms a skirt to 
the idol, contains serpents' heads covered with a cross-hatching 
which represent's a serpent's skin. Between the serpents' heads, 
tails all of them containing ratttles. 10. Below these horrid 
tassels, is a serpent with its four folds covered with cross hatch- 
ings which are dotted like that on the serpents heads above, 
the eyes and teeth and forked tongue resembling those in the 
shoulders and head above. 11. On either side of this serpent 
head are figures that look like claws, though they may be intend- 
ed for serpent's eggs. 

Mr. E. S. Holden has drawn the comparison between this 
Mexican idol and others found in Yucatan. He discovers a 
similar combination of serpent's heads and tails with human faces, 
arms and limbs but with the addition of crotalus jaws and many 
other symbols, and thinks that there are so many striking du- 
plications and coroborative resemblances that the Yucatec figures 
and the Mexican idols may be supposed to represent the same 
personage, Huitzilipochtli, the god of death. The identification of 
the Yucatec and Mexican or Aztec religions seem to be quite 
complete. See plate XI. 

[v.] A comparison of the tradititions and myths of the serpent 
and the serpent symbol will be in place here. There are many 
myths of the serpent as well as of the tortoise, and these seem to 
be very wide -spread. 

On this point we quote from Mr. Edward Tylor. He says: 
"In the Old World the tortoise myth belongs especially 
to India, and the idea is developed there in a variety of forms. 





The tortoise that upholds the earth is called in the Sanskrit 
Ki^irmaraja, King of the Tortoises, and the Hindoos believe 
to this day that the earth rests upon its back. Sometimes 
the snake Sesha bears the world on its head, or an elephant 
carries it upon its back, and both snake and elephant are 
themselves supported by the great tortoise. The earth, res- 
cued from the deluge which destroys mankind, is set up with 
the snake that bears it resting on the floating tortoise, and a del- 
uge is again to pour over the foce of the eartii when the world- 
tortoise, sinking under its load, goes down into the great waters." 
"According to Varaha-Mihira, the Indians represented to them- 
selves the inhabited part of the world under the form of a tortoise 
floating upon the water; it is in this sense that they call the 
world Kaunna-cJiakra\ that is to say, "the wheel of the tortoise." 
"The striking analogy between the tortoise myth of North 
America and India is by no means a matter of new observation; 
it was indeed remarked upon by Father Lafitau nearly a century 
and a half ago. Three great features of the Asiatic stories are 
found among the North American Indians in the fullest and 
clearest development. The earth is supported on the back of 
a huge floating tortoise, the tortoise sinks under water and causes 
a deluge, and the tortoise is considered as being itself the earth 
floating upon tlie face of the deep. In the last century, Loskiel, 
the Moravian missionary remarked of the North American Indi- 
ans that "some of them imagine that the earth swims in the sea, 
or that an enormous tortoise carries the world on its back." 
Schoolcraft, an unrivalled authority on Indian mythology within 
his own district, remarks that the turtle is an object held in great 
respect in all Indian reminiscence. It is believed to be in all 
cases, a symbol of the earth and is addressed as a mother.". . . 
"Among the Mandans, Catlin found a legend which brings in the 
same notion of the w'orld-tortoise, but shows that by differ- 
ence of the accessory circumstances that it was not in America 
a mere part of a particular story, but a mythological conception 
which might be worked into an unlimited variety of myths. The 
tale that the I\iandan doctor told Catlin, was that the earth was a 
large tortoise, that it carried dirt upon its back, and that a tribe 
of people who are now dead, and whose faces were white, used 
to dig down very deep in the ground to catch badgers. The 
myth of the world-tortoise is one of those which have this great 
value in the comparison of Asiatic and American mythology, 
that it leaves not the least opening for the supposition of its 
having been carried by modern Europeans from the Old to the 
New World." The Scandanavian myth is that the serpent en- 
compassed the globe. In Mexico, the serpent is frequently seen 
encompassing the signs of the zodiac, and we cannot help con- 
necting the symbols on the calendar stones with myths which 
prevailed in the Old World. The same is true of the ornamen- 


tation of the pottery. The serpent and the tortoise seem to 
embody the myth which, according to Mr. Tylor is so wide 
spread. The serpent symbol in the south-west portion of the 
continent is more compHcated and conventional than elsewhere. 
We close this article by referring to the mythological record 
of the creation as contained in the tablets of the creation series 
found in Nineveh, and described by Geo. Smith in his "Chaldean 
Genesis." The subject was the fight between Tiamat and the god 
Marduk. Tiamat, the personification of darkness, chaos, disor- 
der, and so of the powers of evil, is the prototype of the serpent 
of Genesis. Marduk, chosen by the gods for the conflict, and 
armed with sword and bow, engages in fierce fight with Tiamat. 
and eventually dashes out the brains of the dragon, a particular 
which at once calls to recollection "the bruising of the serpent's 
head," as described in Genesis. There is, however, this note- 
worthy difference between the Babylonian and the Chaldean ac- 
counts. Tiamat is a sea-monster, the sea being regarded appar- 
ently as a great hostile power, and so associated with darkness 
and evil. Tiamat is, moreover, a dragon, a composite creature, 
not a serpent. The conflict, however, both in the cuneiform text 
and as depicted on Babylonian seals, always takes place on the 
land. And it may be observed that this same conflict, portrayed 
on a large scale, may be seen on a projecting part of the wall in 
the Assyrian Gallery of the Museum. Here the dragon Tiamat 
is seen retreating, but still threatening, with claws and her wide- 
opened mouth. Tiamat has a pair of wings and a scale-covered 
body. Marduk is advancing to the attack. He has two pairs 
of wings, and is armed with cimeter, and is brandishing a pair 
double tridents, which possibly represent lightning. On the seals 
he is represented either equipped and ready for the conflict, or 
attacking the dragon with bow and cimeter. On one seal, how- 
ever, the dragon is represented as a serpent, as in the biblical 
story, and pursued by Marduk. It will seem from this that the 
serpent in oriental countries was representative of a nature power 
and that is was attended with symbols of the lightning, and other 
processes of nature. Our conclusion is: whether there was any 
connection between the two continents, the serpent symbol in 
both hemispheres was associated with nature worship, yet 
there were traditions associated with it which have very striking 
analogies. The serpent evidently represented a nature power, 
but it was more than this. It is possible that we shall find the 
oriental tradition still connected with the American Symbol. 



The prevalence of sun worship throughout the different parts of 
the globe is impressed upon us as soon as we enter upon the subject 
of primitive religions. The early historic records show that it ex- 
isted extensively at a very ancient date. Traditions and mythol- 
ogy are full of allusions to it, showing that it prevailed before 
historic times. Language seems to have been affected bv it. 
The ve:y form of letters and the phonetic signs in certain lan- 
guages contain tokens of it. The earliest forms of art were also 
impressed and influenced by it. The symbols on coins are 
frequently symbols of the sun, as well as of the serpent and the 
tree. Ancient architecture exhibits sun worship as prevalent. 
The very forms of the temples were constructed so as to make 
the worship of the sun more impressive. The symbol of the 
sun is also found in the clothing of the priest and in the furniture 
of the temples, as well as in the adornments of the idols. 
Hieroglyphics are everywhere full of the same kind of symbol- 
ism. All of these tokens convince us that it was a most 
extensive system and one out of which other religious systems 
have grown. 

- This sun worship may have been preceded bv more primitive 
systems, viz.: animal worship, fetichism, animism, shamanism, 
etc., but it seems to have been more powerful and more extensive 
than any of these, and therefore is worthy of especial studv. 

We may regard it as a form of universal religion, a form 
which reached the stage of universalit}- before historic times. We 
may also consider it as a connecting link between the historic 
and prehistoric ages; a system which survived into historic 
times, but grew out of a prehistoric cult, the product of the 
highest stage which had been reached, but at the same time the 
blossom out of which the fruit grew for the next stage of cul- 

How long sun worship may have continued during prehistoric 


times no one knows, but there are so many grades of it that we 
may conclude that it had continued for a long time. The change 
from sun worship to anthropomorphic systems was evidently 
slow. In some countries it took centuries to reach the first stage 
of idolatry, the anuiial figure changing slowl}^ to the idol as a 
human semblance. Animal worship and sun worship were, 
however closely associated in prehistoric times, and these were 
perpetuated in parallel lines even long after history began. The 
human sem.blance seemed to have been a late conception, and 
yet we can trace in this country the idolatry which contains the 
human semblance back into prehistoric times. It is probable 
that all three of these types of nature worship were even in the 
East quite prevalent before the historic period. 

I. We turn now to consider the connection between animal 
worship and sun worship. Why are animal figures and sun 
symbols so closely associated? 

In answering this question we shall compare the symbols 
of the East and the West, but begin with those of the East. 
The symbols of Egypt are first to be considered: 
Let us consider the different animals which were sacred to 
the sun. (i). The phoenix. This was a bird of the sun. Its 
general appearance was similar to the eagle. It had a gold 
collar about the neck, the breast was purple, its tail blue varied 
with red feathers, its head richly feathered with a tuft at the 
top. According to the fable there is only one on the whole 
globe. It lives 660 years. When it grows old it builds a nest 
and dies. A worm is produced from its bones which, having 
become, a young bird, takes the nest and carries it to the city of 
the sun and deposits it on the altar. (2). The bull was a sacred 
animal and received divine honors as representing a divinity. 
His prolific character was considered a divine attribute. The 
bull was sacred to the sun and carried the globe on its head 
between its horns. The bull was a symbol of x\pis, one of the 
chief divinities of Egypt. The ox-headed divinity Sarapis 
(Osiris Apis) was also a great divinity; the personal and the an- 
imal nature of the god being represented both by the name 
Sarapis and the idol, which was a human form with an ox-head. 
(3). The hawk was a symbol of the sun in Egypt. The god 
Ra was usuallv represented with a hawk's head surmounted 
by a globe or disk of the sun from which the asp issued. The 
hawk was a symbol because it was able to look into the face of 
the sun. 

(4). Lions were considered solar animals. Ra, the hawk- 
headed divinity, was sometimes supported on the back of lions. 
We shall hereafter speak of the lions whose bodies formed a 
throne. Sometimes these lions were separated and were repre- 
sented as lying down with their heads in opposite directions, the 
disk of the sun between them. The lion represented strength 
and so was a symbol of the sun. 


(5). Tlie scarabeus or beetle was in Egypt a symbol of the 
sun. Some suppose this was owing to the habit of the beetle 
of rolling the ball of dirt or dung to its nest. Others say that 
the scarabeus, with its many claws, symbolized a month, thirty 
claws for thirty da\'s. The scarabeus was worn on the head 
ot Ptah, the Egyptian Vulcan, or Hephaestus. A symbol for 
Ptah is given by a combined figure, viz.: a man kneeling and 
supporting the four-armed symbol or emblem of stability on his 
head. Above this emblem is a beetle with wings spread, hold- 
ing up in its claws a globe or sun. The scarabeus was the 
commonest ornament in Egypt, and shows how prevalent sun 
worship was there. (6) The frog was used as a symbol of the 
sun. There are divinities having frog heads, but generally the 
heads are surmounted bv a scarabeus. Ka,father of the fathers of 
the gods, is a frog-headed deit3\ The frog-headed divinity was 
probably the ruler of the water. Horopollo tells us that "Man 
in embr3'o was represented by a frog." Diodorus Siculus says 
that "man was created out of the inud." The frog was the 
father of the gods and men. (7) The goose was a symbol of 
the sun. Set, the great cackler, was one of the divinities of 
Egypt He is identified with the earth. There is a myth that 
the sun is discharged from the earth as an a^g from the goose. 
(8.) The cow was worshiped in Egypt. Athor was a cow. 
She is represented by a cow's head bearing the disk of the sun 
between her horns. Her eyes were supposed to be symbolic. Her 
right eye represented the sun; her left eye the moon. S3-mbolic 
eyes were common in Egypt. They were used as ornaments or 
amulets, very much as beetles and hons were. Ear-rings, brace- 
lets and necklaces having eyes in them were worn as ornaments. 
(9.) The vulture was a symbol of the sun. The body of the 
vulture was worn by the goddess Nephthys, "daughter of the 
sun," "lady of heaven". The vulture with the win^js spread was 
placed over the heads of queens to denote generative power, 
motherhood. Besides these animals, the ram, the fox, the jackal, 
the dog, the hippotamus, the goat, the eagle, the crocodile, were 
sacred in Egypt and most of them were symbols of the sun. 
The elephant, the buffalo, the camel were sacred in India, but 
not in Egypt. The stag, the panther and the lion were sacred 
among the Hittites, but not among the Hindoos. The leopard, 
the lion, the dolphin, were sacred in Assvria. The vulture and 
eagle were very ancient symbols in Babylonia. 

II. We ask the question here, how about the history of animal 
worship and sun worship in the old world? We come back to 
the new world for the answer. It is a singular fact that animal 
worship and sun worship in x\merica passed through many 
stages, but in these stages we see a constant association of 
symbols. One thing is noticeable about this association in 
America; the animals are first made rulers of the skv before the 
sun divinity is, or at least the animal fetiches are supposed to 


rule the different quarters of the sky in a more primitive stage 
of rehgion than are the sun divinities. 

Animal worship was in the ascendency among all the un- 
civilized tribes, but sun worship was prevalent among the civilized 
and a combination of the two may be also discovered among 
certain barbaric tribes. The primordial germs of the two systems 
are found in America. We propose to consider the association of 
animals with sun symbols as they are found in America, i. This 
association is found in the mounds. We have already in pre- 
vious articles shown the prevalence of animal worship. We 
propose to show now the prevalence of sun worship. It is well 
known that the sun symbol is found in the mounds. The shell 
gorgets which have been taken from mounds in Tennessee and 
other states have been described by W. H. Holmes and 
others. These contain four concentric rings. In the outer ring 
are found circles to represent the sun, numbering from ten to 
twelve, corresponding to the months. In the second ring are 
found four or five other circles, corresponding, perhaps, to the 
seasons. In the inner circle are three crescents to represent the 
moon, and at the center is a circle which represents the sun. 
There is no doubt that these gorgets were sun symbols. There 
are no animal figures upon these, but there are other gorgets 
in which birds and sun symbols do appear. We give cuts of these 
to illustrate the points. It will be noticed that the birds' heads 
are attached to a four sided figure which has loops in the cor- 
ners. These possibly may have symbolized the four quarters of 
the sk}' or the four seasons. See Plate I. Within the four- 
sided figure is a svmbol of the sun, which in one case is a single 
circle with a dot in the center ; in another case four rings to 
symbolize four suns ; in another case a ring with four dark 
spots surrounded by a ring with eight radiating points; another 
with birds' heads, and one figure has no birds' heads or sun 
symbol. The number four seems to have been sacred, as it 
symbolized the four quarters of the sky, but it is in every case 
attended with the symbol of the sun. These gorgets were 
taken from a mound in Tennessee. They show that sun wor- 
ship had reached a very considerable height among the Mound 

2. The association of animal figures with sun symbols is 
found on the northwest coast. Here we have totem posts sur- 
mounted by the thunder bird. Below this are bears' heads 
to represent the totem of the person who erected the post. 
Alon<i with the bears' heads are human faces and narts of 
the human form to represent the ancestors. The sun symbol is 
not found here, but the human form is found. A primitive form 
of animal worship as the embodiment of nature powers is seen 
in the thunder bird. We give a cut to illustrate this. See Fig. 
I. Here the thunder bird is a guardian divinity to a house; it 
hovers over the door. This was a form of worship which pre- 













PIfilc I. Ulirll (Joryels contaiiihit/ Sun St/mbols. 



vailed in the forests. It was not the worship of the sun, but of 
the elements. The bird which personified the lightning hovers 
darkly over the forest. It shows how animal divinities began 
to rule 'over a^t^. 
the sky, and p:''' " 
were trans- 
ferred to the 
heavens. If 
we would see 
the sun sym- 
bol and ani- 
mal figures 
and the hu- 
man form 
combined we 
must turn to 
the Zunis. 
Here we find 
on the shield 
of the Priest- 
hood of the 
Bow a wing- 
ed human fic"- P'O- l- Thunder Bird of the Thlinlits. 

ure with an animal on either side and a curved body above the 
figure with a crooked serpent below ; the serpent to represent 
the lightning; the body represents the rainbow; the shield 

itself represents the sun ; 
the wings represent the 
clouds, and the bears the 
presiding fetiches or ani- 
mal divinities. See Fig. 2. 
3. A better illustration 
of the manner in which 
animals came to symbol- 
ize the sun and sun sym- 
bols came to be associated 
with animals is found 
among the Zunis. Here 
we find that diflerent ani- 
mals presided ever the 
different parts of the sky. 
Plate II. The mountain 
Fia-^. The Shield o/ihe Priexih'.od 0/ /he jiov. lion (i) was the guardian 
of the north ; (2) the black bear, master of the west ; (3) the badger, 
master of the south ; (4) the white wolf, master of the east ; (5) the 
bald eagle, master of the upper regions; (6) the mole, master of 
the lower regions. These different animals had colors which cor- 
responded to the natural colors of the regions over which they 
presided. The mountain lion yellow to correspond with the 

I'I'ilr 77. 


auroral hues ; the black bear had a black coal to represent the color 
ot the land oi'nicrht; the badger was black and white and cor- 
responded to the land of summer; the coat of the wolf was 
white and gray, the color of the day and dawn; the eagle was 
speckled like the clouds; the mole was black, the color of the 
caves of the earth. The figures or fetiches of these animals 
were kept very sacred. They were wrought out of different 
kinds of stone; and were painted to represent the colors of the 
sky. Sometimes different varie:ies or species of the same animal 
were supposed to be the masters of the different parts of the sky, 
but in that case they were wrought out of different kinds of 
stone to show the part of the sky over which they ruled. One 
mountain lion was made of yellow lime stone to represent the 
north; anotiier of while lime stone to represent the east; an- 
other of serpentine nodules, which were blue, to represent the 
west, the color of the ocean. The spotted lion was made from 
a white and blue arragonite to represent the sky, and the fetich 
of the lower regions, made of gypsum, was painted black. 
This use of colors along with the animal fetiches is very signifi- 
cant. In Egypt the animals and idols are of different colors. 
Each color was significant not so much of the quarter of the 
sky as of the character of the divinity, and yet it possibly may 
have come from the same source. 

4. Mexico furnishes another stage of animal worship and 
sun worship combined. We have now the four quarters of 
the sky symbolized, but in a different way. There is a dragon 
which rules. The davs are also taken into account. Every 
day has an animal divinity. The months are named after 
animals and so are the vears. There is a constant round of 
animal symbols. There is a complicated way of counting time. 
The days of the month change names. A new symbol is given 
to every day of the month as it passes, but most of ihem animal 
names; i,"fish; 2, wind; 3, house; 4, lizard; 5, serpent; 6, 
death; 7, deer; 8, rabbit; 9, water; 10, dog; 11, monkey; 
12, hay; 13, reed; 14, tiger; 15, eagle; 16, bird; 17, the 
sun; 18, flint; 19, rain; 20, the flower month. See Fig. 3. We 
have also in Mexico colors— south, yellow ; east, red ; north, 
white ; west, black. We have the elements, earth, water, air, 
fire. We have the chief divinities, Quetzatlcoatl, Huitzilo- 
puchtli, Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc, corresponding to the elements and 
to the colors as well as I0 the gods of the skies and a most elab- 
orate system of symbolism to express chronologv and to^mark 
out the sacred feasts. The symbolism of Mexico and Central 
America is verv elaborate and shows a great advance upon the 
symbolism of New Mexico, the Aztecs and Toltecs having 
been much more civilized than the Zunis and other Pueblo 
tribes, but sun worsliip was the religion of all three districts. 
Animal figures are also used as symbols in all of the above 
metioned regions. 



5. There are many figures of animals m Mexico and Cen- 
tral America which are evidently used as symbols of the sun. 
M. Habel has described the figures which he found in the 
Cosumalhuapa. These are very remarkable figures. We 
shall describe onlv two. The main feature of one is a bird with 
huge wincTs in a verv contorted attitude. The bird wears on 
his breast a flaming sun, but carries in his beak a human body 
in a very contorted shape. Two serpents hang below the head. 
The whole fifrure convevs the idea of violence. Its significance 
is unknown, but ic is purelv American. It is tinged by the 


I'ig. 3. Circle with >Si/»ibvls of Days. 

savage thought of America and yet it reminds us of the Asiatic 
figures. It has probably represented the thunder bird as pre- 
siding over or carrying the sun symbol. There is another fig- 
ure which also reminds us of the Asiatic symbols. A face 
shines out from the sky, a symbol of the sun. Flames issue 
from the face to represent the heat of the sun. Behind the 
face are massive wings, perhaps to represent the clouds. 
Below the wings are arUiS with bird claws tor hands. Below 
the hands is a circle with flames issuing from it. A serpent is 
intertwined through the circle. Below the circle is a suppliant 
with his hands held up in adoration to the winged figure. Here 
we have also the component parts of the sun symbol; the human 



face, the sun circle, ihe overshadowincr wings, the intertwined 
serpent, but we have also animal figures associated with it. 

The Aztec c}cle" was represented with a circle with a pic- 
ture of the sun in the center. See Fig. 4. There were symbols 
for the months around this sun circle, as follows: i, water; 2, 
tent; 3, bird; 4, tower; 5, ^ice; 6, vase; 7, flower; etc. 

6. This furnishes another point of comparison. There were in 
Egypt four suns: the rising sun, the mid-day sun, the setting 
sun. and the sun at rest or the night sun. A divinity was as- 
signed to each of these portions of time and a different animal 
represented each divinity or typified each sun. These are as 
we remember them, the lion for the rising sun, the ox for the 

Fig. >,. Sun Circlr, rcil/i Si/m'xih- of ^^oll/hy. 

mid-day sun, the hawk for the setting sun, and the cow for the 
night sun or the sun at rest. We find in Egypt also animals 
presiding over different parts of the country : Anubis, or the 
jackal, over the south; Sebo, the ram, over the north; Buto, or 
the winged asp, over tlie west; Apis and Osiris over the east. 
We have also animals and gods which preside over specific 
towns— Thebes, Memphis, Dendera, etc.— others over two 
countries. We have animal gods which preside over feasts and 
and funerals, etc. This, to a degree, is common in America. 

*For names of the months and the divisions of the year and days see " The Aztecs, 
by Lufien Hiart, pages 62 and 63." We are Indebted to A. C. McClurg & Co., lor the 
use of these cuts. 



There were different kinds of suns and different animals to 
tvpify those suns. The points of compass were also typified by 
different animals and different colors were given to the animals 

to signify the parts of the sky over which they ruled. There 
were different districts and different animal divinities which pre- 
sided over those districts, the same as in Egypt and Assyria. 

III. We are to consider next the significance of the animal 
forms which are found in the symbols of the east and west. It 
has been maintained that the animal heads and other parts 
of the animal form which are associated with human bodies 
and faces in the gods of Egypt, Assyria and Farther India 
vvere but the symbols of divine attributes. This may be 
so, and vet there is another view which may be taken 

of them. In America animal worshio preceded sun worship 
ana was perpetuated after sun worship came into vogue, and so 
we have the means of interpreting the system, which others do 
not have. 

We do not, however, learn that the animal forms which 
are combined with human semblances in America had anything 
to do with the attributes of the divinity, but we do learn that 
they were, in a measure, Totemic, that is, they symbolized the 
relation of guardian which was contained in divinity and at the 
same time expressed the personification of nature powers. 

I. It is noticeable that the different parts of the human form in 
America symbolized nature powers. The e3^e of Tlaloc, the 
Mexican god, shows that he was a ram god, the tongue and face 
of Quetzacoatl show that he was a sun god, while the dress and 
ornaments of Huitzapochtli show that he was the god of war 
and death. This use of ornaments and the parts of the costume 


and head-dress to symbolize the elements over which a divinity 
ruled was very common. It is well known that the serpent and 
the cross were symbols in Mexico and in Central America. 
There were, however, weather symbols, the one si^nifyinj^ the 
lic-htninti- and the other the winds or the points of the 
compass. There is evidence that the tree is used as a sym- 
bol in America, but singularly enough the branches of the tree 
are frequently made to represent the cross, and so the tree 
becomes a weather symbol. The cross and the tree is generall}' 
surmounted by the thunder bird and is sometimes decorated with 
a mask and medallion, and with spiral ornaments, each part of 
the cross and its decoration having a significance and the whole 
being S3'mbolic of the sun and ot nature worship. See Fig. 5. 

None of the American symbols represent personal attributes, 
but they do represent the office of the divinity, and in this 
they differ from the Egyptian and Asiatic symbols. In Egypt 
the animals symbolized ;he attributes ot the divinity, in America 
they symbolized the office. In Asia they symbolized the per- 
son, but in America the elements or nature power. This 
distinction is worthy of notice, because it shows that in America 
the religion was mere nature worship and was less advanced 
than in Eg3'pt. 

We give a cut to illustrate this point. Plate III. It is a pic- 
ture of the bas relief on the inside of the adoratorio discovered 
by J. L. Stephens a tCopan. This adoratorio was a shrine or altar 
devoted to the worship of the sun. Inside of the shrine a mask, 
which represented the face of the sun, was suspended upon two 
cross sticks or poles, while beneath the cross was an elabo- 
rately carved beam supported by crouching human figures. 
The whole temple or shrine symbolized sun worship, each 
separate part and article of furniture and ornament having a 
significance. The sun was symbolized by the face, the eye, 
tongue and lips of the face being distorted to make it expressive. 
It was situated in front of the door of the shrine, so that it 
might catch the rays of the sun, and was supported by the cross 
bars, which symbolized the points of the compass. It was 
suspended above the heavy beam, on which was the skull, 
which symbolized the rain, and that was supported by figures 
which also symbolized the different nature powers. On the 
facade of the shrine were two figures, one of which is repre- 
sented in Plate IV. This was Tlaloc, the god of rain. It will be 
noticed that this god has a peculiarly bulging eye resembling 
a huge rain drop; that he has on his head a head dress made up 
in part of the beak of a bird, in part of a branch of leaves and 
cones, and in part of spiral lines or vine stalks ; that he is blow- 
ing through a tube, and that spiral lines issue from the tube. A 
crooked serpent is intertwined between his legs, but with the 
tail and head both bent upward, while tassels hang from the 
neck of the serpent. Thus the divinity is surrounded by the 



Ptnle TV. Tlie God Tlaloc. 


symbols of his power — the eye to signify the rain, the serpent 
to represent the Hghtning, the spiral lines to signify the winds, 
the tiiunder bird to signify the sky, the leaves to signify 
the vegetation, and other ornaments, to signify the nature 
powers, over which he ruled. The picture is sugges- 
tive. It is not certain whether the form represents the god 
Tlaloc, or his priest, for priests were frequently clothed 
with the same kind of garments on their person and had in 
their faces the same symbols that the god himself did. It 
will be noticed that the tigure has a tiger skin resting upon 
his shoulders. This was in Egypt the official dress of the 
priest of the sun, and the fashion seems to have prevailed in 
America. We do not find in the adoratorio many figures of 
animals, but the tiger skin, the thunder bird, and the serpent 
are animal symbols. We have also plants represented, and so 
the three kingdoms were drawn upon for symbols. Nature 
worship in America combined the solar symbol with animal 
symbols, and made many of the elements symbolic. 

2. Another point is brought out by this comparison of the 
symbols. In the old world the animals which were worshiped 
were domestic, while in America they were wild. This shows 
that the symbolism in America either originated among the 
races when they were in the wild state or was borrowed from 
civilized people and accommodated to a wild condition. Animal 
worship in Asia continued long after the people reached a civil- 
ized condition and was evidently modified by civilization. Animal 
worship in America found its highest development among the 
wild hunter tribes, but it remained among the civilized races. 
Sun worship was incorporated with animal worship among the 
American Indians. The Mound-builders had a kind of nature 
worship. It was rude and primitive, and yet it was attended 
with sun symbols. Some of the mound relics evidently 
present the tokens of a combined animal and sun worship, and 
some even of combined sun worship and idol worship. The 
thought contained within these systems we are not familiar 
with, but we judge from the symbols. The progress in America 
was from shamanism to fetichism, and from fetichism to 
animal worship, and from animal worship to sun worship, and 
from sun worship to anthropomorphic figures. The symbols, 
however, represented the elements and were symbols of the 
nature powers 

In Asiatic countries local animals were used for symbols 
and represented the attributes of the divinity. The animals 
differed in different countries, but they were the animals which 
abounded in those countries. In Egypt the animals used for 
symbols were the ox and the cat and dog ; in Assyria, the 
ox, the eagle, the lion ; in India, the ox,- the elephant, and the 
horse ; in Arabia, the ass, the ostrich, and the elan ; in America, 
the wolf, the bear, the panther. There are also certain animals 



which are everywhere found, as the hare, the deer, the stag, 
the eagle, and the hawk, but this is because these animals 
abound in all countries. In the same country the animals differ 
according to locality; the crocodile and hippopotamus in Egypt ; 
the lion and the deer in Syria among the Hittites ; the fish and 
the hawk in Assyria ; the elephant in India. This is the case 
in America : on the northwest coast the whale ; on the south- 
west coast the monkey; on the gulf coast the crocodile ; in the 
interior the panther. 

3. The use of compound figures is significant. Composite 
animals are discovered among the emblematic mounds of 
Wisconsin. The ancestor posts of the northwest coast are 

Fig. 6. The Water Spider, with 6'i/mOols of the Sun un ita back. 

remarkable specimens of composite figures. They are made 
up of the beaks of hawks, the bodies of bears, human faces and 
many other shapes, each part being significant of the ancestry 
and of the divinities which the family regarded as sacred, the 
totems of the family for many generations being carved into a 
single pillar. Compound figures were common among the 

There are gorgets taken from mounds in Missouri, which 
contain the figures of a spider (which was the divinity of water) 
with a circle (the symbol of the sun) upon its back, and a cross 
within this circle to symbolize the points of the compass. This 
reminds us of the beetle in Egypt whose claws symbolized the 
days of the month and was a symbol of the sun. It is quite 
wonderful that the Mound-builders should reach so high a stage 
of symbolic development. See fig. 6. 


There is a temple built on the banks of the Ganges in Casi, 
Hindoostan, the body of which is built in the shape of St. 
Andrew's cross, w ith a very high cupola in the center. At the 
extremity of every one of the four arms of the cross is a tower, 
probably a symbol of the sun. Inside the temple is an altar, 
and on the right side of the altar is a strange figure, a com- 
pound of the different parts of an elephant, a horse and a mule. 
This shows that the elements or the attributes were symbolized 
by domestic animals. 

4. The use of masks is significant. It is noticeable that 
masks are worn in all parts of the w^orld, in America, Africa 
and in Asia. A hideous mask is worn by the priest of Thibet. 
It represents a human face with horns and other animal parts 
attached to it. Huge masks are carried by the Chinese in the 
feast of lanterns. Masks are very common on the northwest 
coast of America. They are worn in the dances and symbolize 
the mythical history of the dances and of the divinities in whose 
honor the dances are held. We do not know as any of the masks 
referred to have any connection with sun worship, but they are 
suggestive as they conve}' a thought in reference to mythology 
and histor}'. The heads of animals which appear on the bodies 
of men in 'Eg3'pt and Assyria symbolize animal divinities and 
the ornaments upon them symbolize the sun divinit}^ but they 
resemble masks. 

It is probable that the attributes of the divinity were repre- 
sented 1)3^ these animal head. In America the animals them- 
selves were regarded as divinities. 

IV. The progress of the people in prehistoric times in religious 
culture is our next point. The transition of animal worship into 
sun worship and from sun worship into a reverence for the 
personal attributes is the thought now before us. The figures 
of wild animals are found among the emblematic mounds of 
Wisconsin protecting villages, guarding caches, forming game 
drives, marking burial places, and showing where the clans and 
tribes lived, and to what points their tribal bounds extended. 

We have here the first stage, that is, the totem system, 
which consisted in fhe worship of animals. We have second, 
the sun worship, which prevailed extensively among the 
Mound-builders and the Pueblos of Central America. We 
have also the ancestor worship, which prevailed on the north- 
west coasts with about as much force as it does now in China. 
We have also the anthropomorphic svstem, which prevailed m 
Mexico and Central America with almost the force it prevailed 
in Egypt, Greece and Assyria. 

All the systems are exhibited by the symbolism of America. 
We have also mysteries and magic arts, and secret societies 
which remind us of the east. The progress of the totem sys- 
tem into the magic arts was manifest in the new world as wel 
as the old. The "magician" and the "medicine man" were 


similar or had similar offices. The Eleusinian mysteries and 
the mysteries of the Priesthood of the Bow have many points 
of resemblance. Both came out of an elaborate system ot sun 
worship, and both were expressive of the operations of nature. 

We take sun worship everywhere as the keystone of an 
arcii, the animal figures found in America to represent totems 
forming one side of the arch and animal figures in Eg3'pt to 
represent attributes forming the other side. We learn a lesson 
from the comparison. In the first place it is probable that ani- 
mal worship preceded sun worship in all parts of the world. 
Second, the progress of religion from a low stage to a high and 
still higher stage is manifest by this comparison. Animal wor- 
ship, sun worship and the worship of idols bearing human names 
and having human attributes, were the different grades in the 
progress. Third, the personification of nature powers led to 
much of the svmbolism of the civilized races, the sun beino often 
represented as a person having personal attributes. Fourth, the 
<luestion is as to monotheism. Here scholars divide. Some of 
them maintain that this is the latest product of a continuous 
series of advancing thought, while others maintain that the 
thought of God is latent in all minds and it is the earliesi of all 
religions. Fifth, the point which we set out to illustrate is that 
totemism and animal worship were the sources of very much of 
the symbolism in the old world as well as in the new. We do 
not know as we have proved it, but the subject is certainly sug- 

We begin in America, far back in the superstitions about ani- 
mals, but we end in a very high stage of symbolism in which 
personal attributes are represented by the combined figures. A 
system almost equal to the heraldry of the East prevailed here. 

The primitive heraldry and the introduction of magic are 
known in America. The totem system is nothing but a modified 
heraldry. Shamanism was the beginning of magic. These 
are anterior to sun worship and various degrees of religious 
culture intervene between them. Sun worship is the first stage 
apparent in Egypt ; after that there is an anthropomorphic ten- 
<lency. There is an esoteric significance to the gods in Egypt. 
Isis and Osiris and Horus present an esoteric system. They 
were different from Ra and Set and Neph, as different as the 
intellectual is from the physical. The story of Isis, Osiris and 
Horus is allegorical. 

This cult prevailed in the palmy days of Eg^'pt ; still there 
was a progress in religion, even though there was a decline in 
power. The hieroglyphics, tablets and disks, which belong to 
a later stage of history, show that there was a progress ; still 
animal forms and sun symbols were perpetuated in Egypt not- 
withstanding the changes that came over history. This is 
seen in the Hypocephali ; an animal-headed divinity stands in 
the boat in which the soul is ferried over to the land of spirits ; 


the boat contains an ark which reminds us of the ark in Jeru- 
salem. The boat or ark is always in the center of the sphere 
or disk. The soul is conveyed in the ark to the land of the 
setting sun. Here is a psychological idea, and yet the symbolism 
of the old mythology is perpetuated. We might speak of the 
survivals of "the symbols of the old mythologic system. The 
form of the disk and its divisions and hemispheres are survivals 
from sun worship. The animal heads upon human forms in the 
divinities are survivals of animal worship. 

Another illustration of progress and perpetuity may be found 
in the animal myths which prevail throughout the whole 
world. It is remarkable that the hare and the owl are every- 
where regarded as mythologic creatures. Some make these 
animals to be symbolic of the various movements of the sun. 
We read in the proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeol- 
ogy that "this was owing to the ambiguous use of the word 
hare." We doubt whether this is the case. The Egyptian 
word for hare may have several different significations: to "start 
up ;" to "open ;" to "transgress," "overleap," etc. ; but what has the 
Egyptian word to do with American symbolism ? The historic 
connection between different countries is not sufficient to account 
for the universality of this myth about the rabbit or the hare. 
It is only because this animal is everywhere found and is taken 
as either a tribal totem in all countries or because it fitly sym- 
bolizes or represents a nature power. The progress of thought 
may be recognized in the history of this single animal myth, lor 
the hare itself has passed through all the stages from the simple 
totemism up to the psychological symbolism, and is the best in- 
stance of a "survival of the fittest" which we have on record. 

If watake the seals and cylinders discovered at Babylonia by 
Dr. W. H. Ward and compare them with the Hypocephali 
discovered in Egypt recently we shall see the contrasts. Many 
of the seals and cylinders are very ancient, but the Hypocephali 
are comparatively recent ; the first dating back as far as 2200 
B. C; the last having dates as recent as the twenty-sixth dynas- 
ty. The interpretations of the cylinders given by Dr. W. H. 
Ward and Prof. A. L. Frothingham in the Journal of Archceol- 
ooy and in Scribncr''s Magazine, as well as in The Sunday 
School Times, a.vt very interesting. The interpretation of the 
Hypocephali are found in the "Proceedings of the Society of 
Biblical Archaeology" for 1885 and 1886. As connecting links 
between these two extremes we have also the symbols and in- 
scribed animal figures which have been found at Jerabis and at 
Sindjirli. These are supposed to be Hittite and stand between 
the Assyrian and Egyptian symbols. Two things are noticea- 
ble in all of these symbols, whether ancient or comparatively 
modern, viz.: the sun symbol is everywhere present, but it is 
attended by animal figures. This is the main point of our 
paper. Sun worship and animal worship appear at the very 


introduction of history in a combined capacity, and the symbol- 
ism of both is prominent in the most ancient tokens. Sun 
worship and animal worship continued long after the early em- 
pires had run their race. History and mythology make a record 
of these, but not so complete a record as archccology does. We 
are discovering more about the symbolism of the east and finding 
that these two systems of worship were ver}- powerful. There 
are several stages of progress which might be marked out, but 
we have not time to dwell upon them. 

We have then first the Totem system with animals as the 
symbols ; second, sun worship, with rude figures of the sun for 
symbols ; third, we have the combination of the two, animal 
figures and sun symbols being combined ; fourth, we have the 
nature powers introduced as an adjunct to sun worship, the 
nature powers being symbolized by animals ; fifth, we have the 
personification of the sun, the sun being symbolized b}^ an idol 
in human shape, but thi nature powers surrounding the human 
form symbolized in various wa3's. These views in reference to 
the growth of idolatry in America are not altogether speculative. 
We' regard them as suggestive of the source of idolatry in all 
countries. The Totem system was the first source in all coun- 
tries. The Totem system in America was generally limited to 
the hunter races, and did not go beyond the stage of savagery 
and barbarism. We would not expect to find the Totem system 
in historic countries. Still there are hints of it even there. 
Lenormant says that "the cherubim of the scriptures and the 
flaming sword in the garden of Eden were symbols derived 
fi-om prehistoric times. They are the remains of the primitive 
sun worship. There are those who ascribe the symbols which 
were placed on the escutcheons of the tribes of Israel to a prim- 
itive animal worship. The lion was the animal symbol for 
Judan, the ass for Issachar, the wolf for Benjamin, the serpent 
for Dan, the hind for Gad. Certain writers think that the word 
Elohim originally represented nature powers, and that the word 
Jehovah represented the personal god or national divinity. They 
would thus make the Jewish worship to originally have sprung 
from sun worship, being the result of the last stage of 
development. The idea of one God, however, appears in the 
very first chapter of Genesis, and it is probable that this was as 
■early as sun worship. 

V. Some would argue from this a possible development upon 
the two continents. There is considerable plausibilit}' to it, but 
we call attention to the resemblances in detail. The case of the 
Peruvians is cited as proof. They thought that there was not 
a beast or bird on the earth whose shape or image did not shine 
in the sky. They seem to transfer the animals to the sky 
and worshiped them there, making constellations of them which 
remind us of the constellations which originated in the east. 
They considered that the luminaries and the constellations were 


guardian divinities. The sons ot the moon and the sons of the 
panther stood in a similar relation. This is significant. 

They worshiped both beings and regarded them both as an- 
cestors and put the symbols of both into one divinity. The 
signs of the Zodiac came in this way. The stars were com- 
bined into constellations which represented animals. In Asia 
animals were mere mythologic creatures, fabled monsters. 
And yet, it is probable that they were originally nature powers 
and possibly may have symbolized Totems. There are myths 
concerning'the Pleiades in America, and we believe that othei 
myths will be found which were derived from the old world, 
but we in America may learn how these myths and constella 
tions and astronomical divinities arose. 

The serpent is to be considered in this connection. Serpent 
worship and sun worship are everywhere associated In 
America the serpent is a very common symbol, and a symbol 
very frequently connected with sun worship. The serpent was 
a sign of kingly power as well as a symbol ot the sun. In 
Egypt the head of the serpent issues from the orb, which is 
worn upon the head of certain divinities. In Assyria the ser- 
pent forms a circle in which the king or the divinity seems to 
stand. The king has a crown upon his head, w^hile he holds a 
small serpent circle in his hand. In some of these figures the 
wings of a bird issue from either side of the circle and the tail 
of the bird is below the circle. The caduceus, or emblem of 
Mercury was a double serpent twined around a staff. The 
caduceus with two wings at the head of the staff overshadow- 
ing the serpents was a symbol of royalty with the Romans 
Thus we have the survival of the serpent symbol late in his- 

The winged globe is another symbol which shows a sys- 
tem of progression. The winged globe in Egypt was a 
symbol of the sun. The winged globe is found in America. 
In Egypt the winged orb was a symbol of the kingly office 
and was frequently placed over the head of the king. In As- 
syria the king was placed in the circle of the sun with a crown 
where the head of the bird should be, but below him is the 
spread fan-shaped tail of the bird. In America there is no king 
in the circle, but the bow is seen spread across the face of the 
circle just beneath the spread wings and so made significant of 
the warrior office. The golden ^gg is to be considered in con- 
nection with this symbol of the globe. Mr. Renouf says that 
"the golden egg has undergone considerable change, but in its 
earliest form the god of the golden agg is only a name for Sa- 
vatri, the sun," and here the Hindoo and the Egyptian myths 
agree. We do not know whether the cosmogonic egg was 
ever introduced as a symbol into America. 

We will refer next to the bird on a Proto-Ionic capital found in 
Messopotamia. Prof. Frothingham says: "This bird is evi- 








C E H 


dently the symbol of the seated divinity. Toward these ap- 
proach two worshipers, each with a hand raised in adoration. 
Behind them are two animals, a hare and a kangaroo (we should 
sav ibex). The seated divinity in dress and type takes us back 
to' the Babylonian cyHnders of 2000 and 3000 B. C." Noiice 
the dates ascribed to this cylinder and the figures upon it. 
Prof. Frothingham says "kangaroo." It looks to us more like 
a mountain goat or ibex. We have taken the position that 
some of the earliest mscriptions indicate that animal worship 
prevailed before the first ancestors migrated from their early 
home among the mountains of Thibet to the plains of Shinar; 
that they had a Totem system similar to that of the North 
American Indians before they migrated. The hare and the 
ibex on this cylinder seem to confirm our position. The bird re- 
minds us of the thunder bird of the Thhnkitsand of the Aztecs; 
but it may have been a mere sign of royalty. The question is 
whether "the symbols on these early seals and cylinders had 
reached the stage where heraldry was adopted and under- 
stood. We think that the Totem system would account for 
them and yet they may be ascribed to a system of heraldry. 
There is another seal or cylinder in the De Clerq collection in 
which a bird with spread wings is represented as in the air 
three times repeated with the symbols of the sun and moon be- 
neath, and seated divinities facing these symbols. Here we 
have heraldry, for the bird with the spread wings may have 
been the ensigns of power, and yet we have mythology, for the 
sun and moon are there, and evidently were objects of worship. 
Layard says that "sacred birds belong to the Babylonian and 
Assyrian religion and were connected with sun worship." 

It'would seem from these facts that there had been a progress 
from a primitive animal worship and sun worship to the various 
systems of heraldry and a formal religious symbolism in all 
countries. We may say that the Totem system was the begin- 
ning, or at least an early stage in the progress. Even the as- 
trology of the old world may be traced back to the primitive 
animal worship. 

VI. We now turn to consider the correspondence between 
these symbols of the east and west, especially those found in 
Asiatic countries, and the American continent. This is an im- 
portant point. How came America to have symbols so resem- 
bling those in the eastern hemisphere? They resemble them 
not only in generic lines but in specific points; the details of the 
symbols being as suggestive as the symbols themselves. In 
Asiatic countries this correspondence has been ascribed to an in- 
terchange of thought and intercourse between the nations. Is 
it possible that the same transmission of thought has extended as 
far as America, and shall we ascribe it to an intercourse between 
the two continents? We take up the point because it is an in- 
teresting and important one. The figures in which correspond- 


ence are to be found are generally composite figures, but as we 
analyze the different parts we find remarkable resemblances. 

1. We shall take up the symbol which represents the sun as a cir- 
cle or disk or orb with wings issuing fi-om it. This is called the 
solar orb, or the winged circle. This is a very significant figure. 
We call attention to the resemblances in detail of this figure. 
There is a striking resemblance between the American and the 
Egyptian symbol. The main difference is, that in America the 
feathers of the wings are turned upward, while in Egypt they are 
turned downward. In America there is a bow which extends 
across the face of the semi-circle. In Egypt there is no such 
bow, and yet in Egypt the moon is sometimes represented as a 
bow, and the myth is that the sun was shot from the bow. 

There are two specimens of the winged circle in America. 
Both of them are imperfect, but the one supplements the other, 
and so we have the perfect figure. They were found by J. L. 
Stephens. They were both placed over the adoratorios, in which 
were tablets containing symbols of the sun, and were evidently 
intended to symbolize sun-worship. See Plate V. In Assyria 
there is a winged circle which has the crowned head of a kmg 
issuing from the circle. In America we have no such figure of 
the king, but we have the figure of the winged orb or circle, re- 
sembling that in Eg^^pt, with this difference: that the feathers are 
turned up instead of down. This is seen from the fragment pre- 
served on the corner of the adoratorio at Copan. In the other 
specimen discovered by Stephens there is a large circle in the 
center and a bow stretched across from one end of the wings to 
the other; there is no bow on the Egyptian or Assyrian symbol, 
but instead the crescent of the moon is seen. The conception is 
the same. The sun seems to have been shot out from the 
moon as from a bow. There is a bow and a bow-string 
stretched across the wings, but there is no bow in the Assyrian 
symbol. The history of the winged orb is not known, but the 
earliest and most primitive form of the figure of overshadowing 
wings is found in the northwest coast of America. We give a 
cut to illustrate it. It was probably a totem and yet was a 
thunder bird. See Fig. 4. 

2. The sun symbol in nearly all countries is a disk or circle or 
Sflobe. Disks are found in the mounds in America. These disks 
or shell gorgets are inscribed with figures of the sun in the shape 
of circles; symbols of the moon in the shape of crescents, and 
symbols of the stars in the shape of dots. There is nothing very 
remarkable about this. There are disks among the Pueblos in 
which the sun is represented as a human figure, crowned with a 
turreted helmet and with a many colored bow above the figure. 
These are acknowledged to be symbols. 

There are disks in Egypt. Sometimes the disks arerepresented 
with faces, sometimes with arms issuing from them and with 



hands at the ends of the arms. There are disks in Assyria and 
in India. In all these countries the sun is symbolized by the 

The winged orb is a modification of the disk. The over- 
shadowing wings are found in Egypt, in Assyria, in India, 
and in America. In all these countries there is a circle or a 
globe with wings issuing from it, and generally some animal 
head is connected with the circle. In Egypt the asp issues from 
the circle. In Assyria the head of an eagle is seen above the 
circle and the tail below. In America the head and wings of an 

Ficj. 7- Double Ihrone and Phdlic Syrabol. 

eagle are sometimes seen hovering over the circle as we have 

described above. Sometimes the circle has wings without any 

animal heads, as at Copan and at Palenque, The serpent is 

combined with the disk. In Assyria the solar orb or circle is 

formed by a serpent. The king holds a small serpent circle in 

his hand. In America the serpent also frequently forms the 

circle of the sun. We have referred to this already. It is seen 

in the calendar stones. The caduceus, or emblem of Mercury, 

was a double serpent twined around a staff and overshadowed by 

two wings at the head of the staff. There is no caduceus in 

America. The serpent in the shield of the Priesthood of the 

Bow reminds us of the Assyrian symbol, but it is in a different 

position and has no such significance. 




3. There is another symbol in America which is quite import- 
ant, because of its resemblance to those common in Egypt and 
Babylonia, and especially because of its connection with sun 
worship. We refer to the animal headed throne, three 
specimens of which have been found in Central America: 
one at Chichen, and two at Palenque. That at Chichen is a 
simple seat, rudely cut out of a single block of stone, and yet 
from its situation in front of the palace and from its form, it has 
been supposed to be used as a sort of sun symbol. The sun- 
light may have fallen upon it at certain seasons of the year, 
and made it suggestive of the kingly power of the sun. The 
second figure is the one described by Waldeck and Stephens. 
The principal figure sits cross-legged in an easy attitude, with 
a calm and benevolent expression. He wears a necklace of 
pearls, to which is suspended a medallion containing a face, 
perhaps intended as the face of the sun. The form of a woman 
is sitting in front of him, cross-legged on the ground. She is 
richly dressed and is apparently offering to the king a head- 
dress, in which is seen a plume of feathers, the headdress of 
the principal person being deficient of feathers, A third speci- 
men is the one which was found by Stephens on the tablet 
within the shrine at Palenque— a shrine which has been called 
the Temple of the Beau-relief, because of the beautiful figure 
which was seen in relief on the tablet. This represents a king 
or warrior seated in a graceful attitude upon a richly-sculptured 
globe, but wearing a sqrt of helmet on his head, greaves upon 
his feet, and gloves upon his hands; pointing with one hand to 
the hieroglyphs in front of him, and with the other to the sky. 
The throne itself is apparently a simple heavy bar of wood, 
supported by the massive feet and claws of two leopards, the 
heads projecting up on either side of the globe. The whole 
figure gives the impression of strength and beauty combined, 
and is suggestive of kingly power, as well as of religious 

The best illustration of sun worship is found at Cosumal- 
huapa in Central America. Here the system seems to have 
developed into a stage where the sun and moon and celestial 
bodies were personified and represented under human figures, 
especially under human faces, and were worshiped with the 
same faith apparently that the personal divinity is at the 
present time. This is illustrated by some remarkable tablets 
discovered by M. Habel. Very little is known of their origin 
or history. 

The following is the description of them : The most con- 
spicuous object is the representation of a human face in a 
circle, resembling the ordinary pictures of the full moon. The 
two central staves pass downward, and are differently orna- 
mented. In the lower part of the sculpture appears an indi- 
vidual, with face upturned and an elevated hand, imploring the 
deity. The supplication is indicated by a curved vine, knotted 



on the sides. The breast is adorned with a globe similar to that 
on the breast of the goddess; around the wrist of the right 
hand is a plain cuff, while the left hand is covered with a skull. 
A stiff girdle, with a boar's head ornamenting its back part, 
surrounds the waist. In front of the adorer is a small altar, 
and on the altar a head, from the mouth of which issues a 
curved staff " 

Now this is a very remarkable tablet, for it shows that the 
moon was personified or worshiped as a personal divinity, and 
that the symbolism connected with moon worship was very 

Another tablet discovered by M. Habel represents the sun, 
or some other Nature power, as personified under the figure of 
an old man. The following is a description : " The sole orna- 
ment of the head consists of staves in different directions, the 
bearers of the deities' mandates expressed in picture language. 

Fig. 8.— Winged Circle from Palenque. 

From the cars depend large rings; the hair hangs down in a 
braid on either side of the head; a single row of discs adorn 
the neck; both wrists are covered with bracelets; from them 
emanate two staves bearing nodes and buds, which divide the 
staff into triangular spaces. These triangles seem to be mystic 
signs for a religious expression. On the left shoulder of the 
deity is a sheaf of the maize from which emblems, we con- 
clude that this figure is the God of Fertility. 

The head of the person standing beneath, with face upturned, 
is ornamented with a cap, a kind of helmet, with a disc and 
three peaks. From the heads of the person the loose hair floats 
down the back, and to this a skin resembling a tiger is attached. 
The right wrist is covered with a wristlet, while the skull of a 
wild animal serves as a gauntlet to the left hand. The waist is 
encircled by a stiffened girdle, on the back of which appears 
the head of a wild animal. From the waist ascend curved 
lines, seeming to indicate the feelings of the individuals, not 
by language but by inspiration. From the mouth come vines 



with nodes which express in cipher the prayer of the indi- 

Now, it appears from these tablets that the moon, perhaps 
the sun, and Celestial powers, were regarded as presiding over 
nature and terrestrial bodies. The human beings were depend- 
ant upon the sky divinities, and made their wants known by 
prayer, which was symbolized by the vine. The most singular 
part of these tablets is represented below. 

An explanation of the cut is that it represents a sick 
man lying prostrate, though clad in the usual apparel of a well 
person, but apparently faced by the image of death, toward 
which be is extending his arm, as if in fear. The body of 
death shows bones and ribs and joints, and the skull and open 
mouth; while from the shoulders and head there seem to be 
rising flames. It is a most remarkable pictograph, and ex- 

Fig. Q. — Figure of Death. 

presses more than can be told. There is no evidence of sun 
worship, other than the circles which appear above the upper 
part of the picture, but taken in connection with the other 
tablets, we may conclude that there was the same dread of death 
prevailingamongthis unknown people that exists at the present 
time, but the only object which presented hope was the solar 
sphere which seemed to roll in the sky and send down its rays 
upon the living and the dying. 

4. Another representation of sun worship is given by the 
human sacrifices which were made to the sun in Mexico, and 
have been described by a writer in Globus.* He says that 
the bloody rites of the sprmg festivals occurred on the fifth of 
May while the sun was at its zenith over the city. The demon 
of winter is overcome by the advancing season. The feast in 
May resulted in the killing of Tezcatlipoca, identified by the 

• See Globus, JanuKrj, 1904. 


seeds, but was appeased by the blood of the altar. This 
forms a spring and harvest feast which the Mexicans celebrated 
at Tlascala. There was a feast of the rising sun. At midnight 
the priest bored the fire with the fire-drill out of the intestines 
of the Fire God Mixcoatl, and immediately a prisoner was 
offered up as a sacrifice to the Sun God, by tearing out his 
heart. The flesh of the victim was eaten by the priests and by 
the people, from religious motives. 

There is a pictograph contained in the Borgian Codex, 
which is explained by this writer, as follows : Quetzalcoatl, the 
Wind God, bored the new fire out of the vitals of Xiahtecatli; 
the sunlight was dependent upon the success of the fire-boring. 
The myth tells us that there were two gods, Nanoatzin and 
Teciztecatl, who were to become the sun and moon. They 
were pushed into a great fire upon which they went into the 
sky as the day and night constellations. Therefore it is, that 
at the annual feast the old fire is allowed to go out and the new 
fire is created. 

The winter solstice is an occasion for celebration. Every 
fourth j'ear, the living prisoners of war, slaves, and among 
them women, were offered on the sacrificial stone. Four 
slaves apparently represented the sacredness of the number 
four, as symbols of the cardinal points. They also showed the 
sacredness of the colors, for they wore blue, yellow and white 
colors upon their persons. 

At the end of fifty-two years the fire-boring sacrifices were 
noteworthy. It was found that the sun would not come up, 
that night would continue forever, and that men might have a 
sudden end, except as the spark .'■hould result from the fire- 
drill. The celebration of making the new fire took place when 
the Pleiades were at the zenith. This writer believes there was 
a connection between the sacrifices and the volcanic fires. 

The mountains were like altars, and the fires within were 
like the fires upon the altars. The volcanic fires found their 
response in the sky above, so the sacrifices which were upon 
the high places found a response in the heavenly bodies— the 
sun and moon and stars. 

This is a somewhat fanciful interpretation, and yet it shows 
that the superstition of the sun worshipers embraced all the 
powers of nature and made them significant of their own 
destiny, and so increased the importance of the various 
religious ceremonies. 


We now turn from sun-worship to another system which 
resembled it in some respects, and yet was so different as to 
involve another series of symbols and another line of customs 
and traditions. We refer to the Sabaeanism or sky worship, 
which prevailed in America as well as in the lands of the East. 
This system existed among the different tribes — the wild tribes 
of the Mississippi Valley; the various tribes of the Interior, 
especially the Pueblos and Navajoes, and the civilized tribes of 
Southwest. There was associated with it a particular regard 
to the cardinal points and the divinities supposed to dwell at 
these points. 

I. The arch of the sky is also often represented by the sym- 
bols. Sky worship seemed to have prevailed among the Mound- 
Builders, for there are pipes which represent the human form 
seated, with the face turned up 
towards the sky, and holding 
in the hands the bowl, as if 
suggesting the idea that the 
tobacco smoke was offered as 
incense to the sun. There are 
also many pieces of pottery 
ornamented with spiral lines, 
and many shell gorgets which 
suggest the revolution of the 

I. The same system existed 
among the Pueblos. This is 
illustrated by their various 
ceremonies, as well as by their 
pictographs and relics. One 
of the most interesting speci- 
mens is a bowl (See Fig. 2), 
which has a very graceful form 
and is decorated upon the out- 
side by figures of arches, be- 
neath which is seen the figure 

Fig. I. — A Sun-Worshiper. 

of a stag, the heart of the stag being visible, as well as the 
mouth, which sjmbolized the passage ot life. There are many 
other symbols which indicate the prevalence of sky worship. 
Various writers have described this system, but the earliest 
and in some respects the best description, was that given by 
Catlin, the celebrated painter, and was illustrated by four paint- 
ings, of which two are still in existence and are represented 
in the plates. 

1 4-2 


It appears that there was a ceremony, which took place at 
the time of the initiation of the young men as warriors into 
the Sacred Lodge. In this ceremony a peculiar lodge, which 
is called the " Big Canoe," forms the central object. Around it 
are gathered the eight men, divided into pairs, who take their 
position on four sides, representing the four cardinal points; 
four of the men having buffalo horns on their head, a bunch 
of green willow boughs on their back, and each having a staff 
in his hand. Four-other men engaged in the same dance; two 
of them painted black with white spots, the black to symbolize 
the sky at night, the white to repiesent the stars. Beside the 
big canoe were men with skins of grizzly bears thrown over 
them. Among the dancers an evil spirit appears, pamted 
black; strangely clad; white around its mouth and red teeth; 
having a hideous appearance, This picture dramatizes the 

Fig. 2 --Pottery Ornaments Representing the Sky. 

Deluge myth and sky divinity; the other picture represents 
the ceremony in which the warriors undergo a fearful ordeal. 
The flesh from each shoulder was cut and skewers placed under 
it, cords lowered from the top of the lodge were fastened to 
the skewers; the body was raised by these and suspended from 
the ground, and then was turned faster and faster, until, faint- 
ing under the agony, the person hung apparently a still and 
lifeless corpse and the medicine bag drops from his hand, and 
he is finally let down. 

There was no particular symbolism in this ceremony, but 
symbols are found in the arrangement of the lodge, as the four 
sacks were typical of the four divisions of the earth; the four 
buffalo skulls and the four human skulls fastened to t'.ie posts 
of the lodge were also symbols. The use of four colors in the 
cloth over the door of the medicine lodge symbolized the divi- 
sion of the sky. The colors with which the sky was decorated 
















\\( ^^vv( 


bodies were decorated symbolized the colors of the sky; other 
objects symbolize the different elements, and the whole ceremony 
was a dramatization under the lead of a secret society, not only 
of the creation and the deluge, but also of the traditions about 
the astrological myths and the supernatural divinities which ruled 
the earth and the sky. 

2. We notice that the same superstitions prevailed among the 
Eskimos and the Ojibwas. In the belief of the Ojibwas there is 
a place of shadows, a hereafter, and a shadowy spirit; each per- 
son also had a guardian spirit, or tutelar demon, who appears, 
after a fast of a number of days, in a dream, generally in the 
shape of a bird or animal. The future course of life is marked 
out by the dream, exactly as in the ancient world it was marked 
out by the horoscope, or the situation of the stars. Schoolcraft 
has given a chart which represents this sky worship. In this 
we find the mida tree, which symbolized the spiritual power, 
the wabeno tree, the charmed arrow, the sacred dish, the stuffed 
crane, the ghost lodge, the great spirit filling all space with his 
beams and lighting the world by the halo of his head. The 
hawk is the guardian spirit. The great spirit begins and ends 
the chant. This first figure was that of a bird in the lodge, the 
last is a figure of the face, or sun, under the arch of the sky.* 

3. The tribes situated in the Gulf States also had a system of 
symbolism which was based upon sky worship, and which intro- 
duced a symbolical geography into their villages and influenced 
even their architecture and the arrangements of their houses, 
tribal organizations, and their feasts and dances. The following is 
the description given by Bartram of their public square and 
council house: "The public square is the highest part of the 
town. It consists of four square buildings ot one story, so as to 
form an exact rectangle, covering half an acre. One of these is 
the council house, where the chief or Mico decides cases and 
receives ambassadors. This building is divided into two parts, 
the back part perfectly dark, with three small arched apertures 
opening into it. This is a sanctuary, where they deposit all the 
sacred things, the imperial standard, calumet, and rattles. The 
front of the building is divided into three apartments. The 
pillars supporting the front are formed in the likeness of speckled 
serpents climbing upwards. The other buildings which compose 
the square are decorated with paintings, sculptures and hiero- 
glyphics, men having heads of some kind of animals, bear, wolf, 
fox, turkey, ducks and deer, and again these creatures have 
human heads. The rotunda is different from the public square; 
this is built upon a conical mound and has a conical roof. 

♦Another chart has been furnished by Dr. W. H. Hoffman, which represented the cre- 
ation by an "orientated" circle, the initiation by four rectangular lodges, also orientated, 
their entrances guarded by serpents and animals, the "end of lite" by a circle, and the 
"future life" by a square lodge, and a circle for a "ghost lodge," and the path of the dead 
between them. 


There is, in the center of it, a post or pillar. Around this post 
the spiral circle of faggots v\^as placed, the circle of faggots turn- 
ing from right to left, extending to a distance of ten or twelve 
feet from the center, rising a foot or eighteen inches from the 
ground. This spiral circle was lighted at the time of an opening 
of the council. The blaze creeps around the center pillar, follow- 
ing the course of the sun, illuminating the entire chamber. 
When the fire burns out the council ceases. After the illumina- 
tion takes place the warriors are seated on their sofas in three 
ranks, the king in front and the young warriors to the rear. 
The great war chief's seat is to the left hand of the king, the 
elders and head men to the right. The king smokes the great 
pipe, puffing the whiff to the four cardinal points. It is then 
carried to the different persons and smoked by them in turn."* 

The account which Bartram has given of one of the dances is 
very suggestive. The dance was held in the rotunda. "In this 
dance the musicians were seated near the great pillar, where was 
the central fire, but around the building was a row of seats, one 
above the other, like an amphitheater. A company of girls, hand 
in hand, dressed in clean, white robes, and ornamented with beads, 
began to sing their responses in a gentle, low, sweet voice, and 
formed themselves in a semicircular file or line in two ranks, back 
to back, facing the spectators and musicians, moving slowly 
round and round. Afterward a company of young braves, painted 
and ornamented with silver bracelets, gorgets and wampum, 
moccasins and high waving plumes in their diadems, formed 
themselves in a semi-circle or rank. There was something sin- 
gular and diverting in their step and motion. The motion began 
in one end of the semi-circle, the dancers rising up and down, 
and continued to the other end. At the same time, and in the 
same motion, the dancers moved obliquely, so that a revolving 
circle was formed by the complex movement. At stated times 
a grand or universal movement instantly occurred, each rank 
turning to right and left, taking each other's places, accompanied 
with a sudden and universal elevation of the voice in a shrill, 
sharp whoop." Whether the motion of the heavenly bodies was 
symbolized by this dance or not. it was a very significant cere- 
mony and one which was carried out with great exactness and 
managed with inconceivable alertness and address. Bartram 
gives no interpretation of the dance or of the arrangement of 
the houses or villages, or of the other customs which he observed, 
but we imagine that all of these buildings were orientated and 
arranged after the model of the celestial spaces, that the rotunda 
symbolized the dome of the sky and the spiral fire symbolized 
the motion of the sky, that the dances even symbolized the 
opening and the shutting of the day, and that the system of sky 

*See p. 365. Bartram's Travels. See also the spiral path on the Ohio mound, Fig. 6. 



worship will account for all these customs and ceremonies. We 
have no record that there were secret societies and sacred mys- 
teries among these tribes, but a natural inference is that all of 
these ceremonies were under the direction of such a society. 
There is no doubt that there was an esoteric significance to all 
these customs and that they embodied the myths and traditions 
which had regard to the sky divinities, myths which resemble 
those held by the Cherokees. 

II. We next turn to the ancient Mound-builders. We have 
already referred to different religious systems which prevailed 
among them.* We have shown that animal worship or totemism 
prevailed in one district; fire worship in another; the water cult 
in another; the moon cult in another, and the solar cult in still 
another. The thought now before us is that sky worship was 
the predominant religion of the Mound-builders and these local 
cults were associated with 
it or were the component 
parts of it. i. As evidence of 
this we would refer to the 
relics which have been dis- 
covered in the mounds, es- 
pecially those situated in 
the Ohio Valley and the 
Gulf States, a region which 
was occupied by the sun 
worshipers. Among these 
relics we notice many shell 
gorgets in which there are 
circles, and in the circles, 
discs and dots and cres- 

. .1 . r Fiq.S.— Mound-builders' Map of the Sky. 

cents, the arrangement of ^ 

the figures on the concave shell gorgets suggesting the thought 
that there was an attempt to make them represent a map of the 
sky, with the sun, moon and stars filling the four celestial spaces. 
See Fig. 3. There are coiled serpents with the bodies divided 
into four parts by concentric circles, other concentric circles 
forming the eye, the concave filled with various arches (see 
Fig. 4) suggesting that there was a hidden astrology contained 
in them. There are also spider gorgets which have circles and 
crosses and bars upon the back, zigzag lines between the mandi- 
bles, all of them symbols of the nature powers, the number four 
being preserved, and the whole arrangement making them sug- 
gestive of a chart. The same may be said of the bird gorgets, 
though in these the spaces are rectangles rather than circles. They 
are all suggestive of a symbolical geography which had to do 
with the sky as well as the earth. 

Our supposition is that they represent the motion of the 

♦See book on Mound-builders; also chapter on Serpent Worship, especially the plates. 



heavenly bodies, the order of the seasons, the points o^ the 
compass, the division of the sky, the four elements — fire, earth, 
air and water, the celestial spaces, the nature powers, and possi- 
bly a calendar system. These symbols are rude and present the 
subject in a primitive stage, but they are constantly suggesting 
thoughts of the customs of the more advanced races and remind 
us of the marvelous things contained in eastern mythology. We 
have already shown that they contain the same symbols which 
are embodied in the various calendar wheels and sacrificial stones 
of Mexico, as well as those which are found upon the inscribed 
tablets of the ancient cities of Central America, for the crosses, 
circles, serpents, figures of the tree, birds, masks, human figures, 
which are iound rudely drawn upon the disks and gorgets and 
tablets, apparently have the same significance as those contained 
in the more advanced works of art, and represent the same 
general system. The temptation is to read into these lines, the 

symbols which developed with 
such great variety in the east, 
and to imagine that the serpent 
whose folds surrounded the 
earth and formed the ocean 
was symbolized in the serpent 
gorget; that the Nile key 
or Egyptian tau was symbol- 
ized in the spider gorget; the 
triskelis or revolving wheel, 
which symbolized the revolu- 
tion of the sky, and the fire 
generator or suastika, which 
is also an oriental symbol, 
were contained in other gor- 

Fig. A.— Serpent 0/ the Horizon. getS. We Can say, at IcaSt, 

that there is such a correspondence between these symbols and 
the oriental myths as to lead us to trace out a "map of the heavens" 
in these rude disks and gorgets, for we recognize in these figures 
of serpents and spiders analogies to the dragons, beetles, and 
tortoises which are seen in the maps of the heavens elsewhere, 
while the arrangement of the circles, crescents and crosses are 
almost identical, and suggest the same myths. 

An astronomical significance may be given to the winged and 
masked creatures which are engraved upon the copper plates. 
These resemble, in some respects, the winged figures common 
among the Cliff-dwellers and Pueblos of the west, and at the 
same time remind us of the winged creatures which were found 
by M. Habel engraved upon the sculptured stones of Gautemala. 
There was the same combination of birds' claws and beaks, with 
human bodies and limbs (see Fig. 5), the symbol of the sun 
being as plain upon the shell gorgets as upon the sculptured 



stones, though the flames are absent. It is probable that these 
represented the sky divinities, the wings filled with arches sym- 
bolizing the spaces above and the clouds, the birds' beaks and 
claws symbolizing the bird of the sky, the human form perhaps 
symbolizing the personal divinities. The same may be said of 
the dancing figures, for there are zigzag lines upon some of the 
laces, and there are masks in their hands, and there are circles 
surrounding them, showing that the lightning and the operations 
of the sky were symbolized by them, for masks are the signs of 
transformation ; the dancers are transformed into birds and ani- 
mals, and again into men and warriors, and yet they personate 
the divinities as well as the nature powers. 

The same interpretation may be given to the human figures, 
whose limbs are so strangely contorted and end in birds' claws, 
bodies divided into links and circles, head in the shape of an 
arch, a concentric circle for an eye, a large mouth, ears formed 
by perforated loops, arms curi- 
ously doubled and jointed (see 
Fig. 5), the space in the shell 
being filled with loops and 
other figures. These symbol- 
ize the sky divinities. The 
presence of shell masks with 
the tattooed human face upon 
them in the mounds conveys 
the idea that there was an as- 
sociation of the burial of the 
dead with the system of sky 
and sun worship, for the cus- 
tom prevailed among the 
Aleuts to put a mask over the 
tace of a dead person when it 
was laid away, as it was sup- 
posed to be going on a journey 

1 ^1 1 J r i.? ■ -i. A Fia. 5.— Arched Heavens Personified. 

to the land of the spirits. A 

similar interpretation has been given to the faces with open 
mouths. These faces are attended with sun symbols, sun circles, 
birds' heads, symbols of the cardinal points, suggesting that the 
soul had departed to the celestial spaces. The fact that shells and 
disks on which were inscribed symbols of the sonl were deposited 
with the body at the time of burial shows that there was a con- 
nection between the native astrology and the future state. The 
soul which was so surrounded by the nature powers and the 
solar universe was to be introduced to the celestial spaces after 
death. Hence the symbol must be placed near the body, that 
the soul might take these as the doors or the patterns of the 
supernatural realm. This was the underlying thought with the 
sacred mysteries and the secret societies 


2. Another evidence is found in the shape of the mounds, espe- 
cially those upon the Ohio, for these contain many astrological 
symbols, singly and in combination, the same as the relics do. 
We find in them circles, crescents, squares, concentric circles, 
crosses, horse-shoes, platforms, altars, avenues, so related to one 
another and to the relics which are contained in them as to con- 
vince us that they were designed to be symbols of sky worship. 
The uniformity of the figures and of the areas contained in the 
sacred enclosures, as well as of the measurements of the walls 
surrounding them, has been noticed by all the surveyors, for 
the circles are perfect circles and the squares are perfect squares. 
It has not been held that this perfection of the figures was 
anything more than accidental, but the correspondence between 
the earth-works and the relics convinces us that these were 



■,\- ..-^ - ^^ < V ,• ^ 



Fig. 6,— Symbol of the Hun— Spiral Path, Embossed Figure on the Ground, 

all directed by symbolical geography; for the sacred enclosures 
and the platforms within them were orientated. It was on this 
account the pavements and altars contained in the mounds were 
constructed in the shape of circles and crescents, and the conical 
mounds had spiral paths and circular ditches about them. See 
Fig. 6. The earth-works surrounding their villages, sacrificial 
and burial places were constructed after the patterns which seem 
to represent the map of the sky, on a large scale, and everything 
about them was put under the protection of the sun divinity. 
In fact, we recognize the circles, crosses and crescents, and ser- 
pents and birds represented by the earth-works as the different 
parts of one great system, which might be taken as a "geography 
of the heavens" built in relief on the earth. 

3. We are led by these figures to draw the comparison between 
the earth-works here and the standing stones and monuments of 
Great Britain, for there are many analogies between them, though 

*Thc crescent pavements made from mica scales surrounded a circular altar, in which 
offerings had been made to the sun. See book on Mound-builders. 



the identity of the symbols is difficult to prove. Others have 
noticed the symbolism contained in these different works. Mr. 
W. F. Maurice has described the circles at Stonehenge and 
Avebury. See Fig. 9. Speaking of Stonehenge, he says: The 
number of stones in the outer circle is thirty, and of the inner 
circle is twelve, and the single stone, or obelisk, in the center. 
He says that the remarkable numbers one hundred, sixty, thirty, 
twelve, constantly occurring, unavoidably bring to our recollec- 
tion great periods of astronomy, the sothic cycle, century, the 
months, thirty days, twelve signs of the zodiac; five is the multi- 
ple of most of these numbers. He compares Stonehenge to the 
circle at Biscawen, a circular temple, consisting of nineteen stones, 
distant from each other twelve feet, having one in the center 

Fiff. 7, — MouuU wUt(, Circle and, JJUcli, litijinUuis ui ine Hun, 

higher than the rest, thus making a symbolical circle. He says • 
**A11 circular monuments, especially those consisting of columns 
or standing stones, were meant as representatives of the sun, or 
the revolution of the sun in its orbit. The temple was uncovered, 
resembling the temples of the ancient Persians. He compares 
Stonehenge to the circular temple at Rollrich, which is the same 
size, and which he calls the "Druids' wheel" or circle. The Druids, 
not less than the Brahmins, adored the sun in a circular dance. 
The Gauls imitated the sun by turning the body around while 
engaged in their devotions. The Phoenicians made their chil- 
dren pass through the fire and worship the sun as a divinity. In 
Scandinavia the gods were worshiped partly in the open air and 
in groves, or in places encompassed by a circle of big stones. 
The Druids celebrated their solemnities at the solstices. It is 
said that they used the stones which cover their dolmens as their 
altars, and sacrificed human victims upon these. It is noticeable 
that the modern archaeologists are tracing out a remarkable 
system of solstitial orientation in the works at Stonehenge, show- 
ing that the adytum or altar was open in a line with the monolith 



at "Friar's heel," and was so arranged that the light of the solstitial 
sun at its rising should strike across this monolith and shine 
into the innermost part of the temple, where the sacrifices took 

Mr, A. L. Lewis, the English archaeologist, has compared 
the standing stones ot Avebury, Stone Henge, Arbor Lowe and 
Stanton Drew, and has brought out the fact that all of these 
works contain circles, avenues, horse-shoes, "coves and altars," 
which were sacred to the sun, the very combination of these 
being suggestive of the astrological system of the east. The'circles 
differ from one another in the number and size of the standing 
stones, in the diameter of the circles, the length of the avenues 
and the arrangement of the circles, but they are nearly all alike 

* » * fli " ^" y 

tS%t9wr»U tyX.O.XrmiJ ^»^ £ ft. I>ai%», 

Iiig. S —I'luce of /Sacrifice and Map of the iSky.* 

in that they were solstitially orientated. The circle at Avebury 
had a diameter of eleven hundred feet, and is the "largest circle 
of stones in the world." It has associated with it a pyramid 
mound or cone at Silbury Hill, which is the "largest artificial 
mound" of Europe. The avenue which Stukeley thought rep- 
resented a great serpent is about a mile long, and ends in a circle 
on Beckhampton Hill. Inside of this large circle are two other 
circles, both three hundred feet in diameter. The "cove" is in 
the center of the northern circle and faces the sun at its "mid- 
summer rising." Stone Henge also has a circle surrounded by 
a ditch and bank, the circle being one hundred feet in diameter 
and the ditch and bank three hundred feet. Inside of the outer 

♦Orientation and sky worship are shown by this cut, for the four concentric circles sym- 
bolize the four celestial spaces, the avenues in the shape of a cross symbolize the cardinal 
points, the spiral path symbolizes the motion of the sun and the mounds symbolize the 
sun itself. Thus a place of sacrifice to the sun was in reality surrounded by all the symbols 
of sky worship, and the earth-works contained the same map of the sky as the shell gor- 
gets, showing that the same system was embodied in the maps and in the relics. 



circle is another of small stones, and inside of this five triliths 
arranged in the form of a " horse-shoe," the horse-shoe, forty- 
four feet wide, opening to the northeast. Inside of the horse- 
shoe is a flat stone, seventeen feet long, called the "altar storte." 
The avenue leads in a northeasterly direction eighteen hundred 
feet, and the stone called the "friar's heel" is inside the avenue, 
one hundred feet distant from the circle. The circle at Arbor 
Lowe consists of an oval ring one hundred and twenty-six by 
one hundred and fifteen feet, surrounded by a ditch and embank- 

Fig. 9. — Stone Hcnge Restored* 

ment, with two entrances, one to the southeast and one to the 
northwest. Within the oval are the remains of a "cove" formed 
of standing stones, like those at Avebury and Stone Henge. 
The avenue which leads toward Gibb Hill was once supposed to 
give the form of a serpent to the monument, but the entrance 
resembles that at the Kennet avenue at Avebury, and is in the 
same direction. The works at Stanton Drew consist of three 
separate circles, arranged in line with a "cove" or trilith like 
those at Avebury and Arbor Lowe, arranged in such a way that 
a line in the direction ot the northeast would pass through the 
center of the great circle. Here there is also a great single 
stone like the "friar's heel" at Stone Henge. The conclusion 

*The four circles, including the five triliths, can be seen in the cut. 


which Mr. Lewis draws from the study of all these works is that 
the stone circles, which are more numerous and larger in Britain 
than in any other part of Europe, were devoted to the worship 
of the sun and "perhaps of the stars." They were erected on a 
plan and were placed so that the circle would have a position 
with regard to some massive stone, or some prominent hill, or 
group of three hills, that the sun would shine over these into 
the circle and strike upon the altar inside of the "cove" at the 
time of its rising at the summer solstice. Now whether these 
circles can be regarded as furnishing any "map of the sky," or 
any "symbolical geography," the resemblance between them and 
the circles, horse-shoes, crosses and other symbols contained in 
the earth-works of Ohio is certainly very striking. 

These show that sky worship was contained in the works of 
Great Britain and that symbolical geography has left a map of 
itself on that soil. We have in this country very few standing 
stones, though the dolmens, stone circles and other symbolic 
works of Peru resemble very much those of Great Britain, and 
are supposed to represent the same system. The earth-works of 
the Ohio Valley have many features that are analogous, yet as 
they are constructed entirely of earth, no standing stones and 
no system of solstitial orientation has been discovered, we must 
leave it as an open question whether they are to be traced to the 
influence of a transmitted cult, or were the result of an aborig- 
inal religion which developed in parallel lines. The resemblances 
are certainly very striking. 

III. Sky worship existed among the Pueblos and Cliff-dwell- 
ers and their descendants the Zunis and Moquis. There was 
associated with it a system of orientation and an extensive cal- 
endar system, also secret societies and many sacred ceremonies 
and a symbolical geography which is very surprising. It is 
very interesting to follow out the system as it existed here. 
Various authors have been engaged in the study of it and they 
have brought out manv interesting facts. Among these may 
be mentioned Mr. Frank Cushing, Mr. James Stevenson, Mrs. 
Matilda C. Stevenson, Mr. Walter Fewkes and Dr. Washing- 
ton Matthews. 

I. Mr. Frank Cushing has given us many facts which illustrate 
this. He says, the chief point in the horizon was the east and 
all other points were arranged with reference to this. The 
points were arranged leftwardly and counted around the hori- 
zon on the fingers, the east the land of day, the west, the land 
of night, the north, the home of the master of gods. The zen- 
ith and the nadir were also worlds peopled by great gods; the 
middle was also a world by itself, thus making seven divisions 
of the sk}' and the earth. The middle was occupied by animals 
and men. The gods of the several regions were represented 
by the elders of clans, the elders of the north being in special 



favor with the gods, and so the first in rank. Next to these 
were the elders of the west. The divinities or fetiches of the dif- 
ferent clans had their rank according to the points of the com- 
pass, those of the north being first. 

2. The order of all the dances must accord with this arrange- 
ment. Each region must be represented by appropriate lead- 
ers, clan elders, the north, west, south, east, upper and lower, 
each region having a house for the gods. The dances were 
celebrated at the different seasons and by the different clans, 
their order being fixed by the precedence which the gods of the 
region above had over each other, the rank of the gods and the 
order of the dances following the cardinal points from right to 

Fig. 10— Circle, Crescents and Square at Sopeton, showing (he Symbolism of the Region 

left. The Zunis also had kivas which were consecrated to these 
gods. In each ot the cities or pueblos in the Gila valleys were 
temple kivas in which the chambers were arranged in a circuit, 
the doorways leading around from the east to the center, the 
northern and southern chambers being twice as large as the 
others to represent the upper and lower regions. 

"These temple kivas were strongholds, storehouses and homes 
of the priest rulers of each of the pueblos, as well as a place of 
sacred assembly, but embodied in themselves the six houses of 
the gods with the center making seven. The temple of Vira- 
Cocha, Peru, was built on the same plan and probably owed its 
origin to the sequence of the cardinal points, similar to that of 
the Zunis. The ceremonial diagram in the prayer meal of the 
seven ancient spaces shows a four-fold circuit of entrance. Seven 
chambers in the diagram. The first entrance is at the north 



and the last at the seventh or middle. The consecration of the 
field of the Zunis, the corn hills have a similar distribution, the 
yellow corn at the north, blue corn for the west, red corn tor 
the south, white for the east, speckled for the zenith, black for 
the nadir and variegated for the middle. This location accord- 
ing to the cardinal points, of corn hills, kivas, sacred chambers 
and the sacred spaces was very ancient and prevailed among 
the Zunis more sensibly than any other tribe. The seven cities 

i iG. 566 

Fig. 5tj7 

Fig. 11,— Sky Divinities of the Zunis. 

of Cibola are supposed to have been built according to the same 
arrangement, for in these the totems of the north dwelt in a vil- 
lage by themselves, those of the west in another, of the south 
in another, and so of the eastern, upper and lower, whilst those 
of the middle dwelt in another town apart from all the rest, 
itself subdivided into wards or septs (as in modern Zuni), having 
also the tribal head — ceremonially ruling all the rest, yet ruling 
through proto-priestl}'- representatives of and from all the rest 
in due order of precedence; only, here in the midmost place, 
these were under the Sun or Father-Proto-priest, and the Seed 
or Mother-Proto-priestess in at least all religious and cere- 
monial concerns." 

The idols of the Zunis exhibit the same symbolism as do the 


sacred ceremonies. In these we see the arches of the sky, the 
turrets of the clouds, the feathers of the wind, the colors, the 
signs of the different quarters of the sky, the crosses of the car- 
dinal points, the pictures of the celestial houses, the male and 
female divinities who presided over the houses and were the 
creators and ancestors of the people, each line and color of each 
idol having a hidden significance. See Fig. ii. 

The following "creation" myth has been given by Mrs. Steven- 
son: "When the people first came to this world they passed 
through four worlds, all in the interior, the passageway from 
darkness to light being through a large reed. They were pre- 
ceded by two local divinities who dwelt upon the mountains, the 
one a hideous looking creature, the other a being with snow 
white hair, probably the personifications of the rain and snow, 
or the black cloud and white cloud. One of these descended 
the mountain and drew his foot through the sands. Immedi- 
ately a river flowed and a lake formed, and in the depths of 
the lake a group of white houses, constituting a village. There 
was a belief that the spirits of the dead went to the beautiful 
village, and that there was a passageway through the moun- 
tains to the depths of the lake with four chambers, where the 
priests of the divinities rest in their journey to the sacred waters. 
This myth is dramatized in a peculiar way in the kivas at the 
initiation of the children. 

The superstition is that no male child can after death enter 
the spirit lake or have access to the sacred village in its depths 
unless he receives the sacred breath of the spiritual divinities, 
the Sootike. There are accordingly persons appointed who 
are to appear at the ceremony of initiation of the children and 
represent the different parts of the sky. The first ceremony 
takes place in the open air by day. The priest of the sun enteis 
the sacred plaza, draws the sacred square with the sacred meal, 
a yellow line in the east, a blue line in the west, a red line in 
the south. Along these lines the god-fathers pass, each one 
holding the god-child on his back. As he passes the line the 
"Sootike" strikes the child with a large bunch of Spanish bay- 
onets with such force at times as to draw tears to the eyes. 
These Sootike are persons appointed who are endowed with 
the breath and represent the "different parts of the sky." The 
next ceremony takes place at night. In this the figure of a plumed 
serpent is introduced as a symbol of the rain god and carried 
by messengers of the "sky divinities." They wear masks ; those 
for the north, yellow; those for the west, blue; those for the 
south, red; those for the east, white; those for the heavens, all 
colors; those for the earth, black. These come to the village 
after sundown. They carry a serpent made of hide, about 
twelve feet long and eighteen inches through, the abdomen 
painted white, the back black with white stars. They pass 
through the town, visit each kiva and put the head of the ser- 


pent through the hatchway. This signifies the rain cloud pass- 
ing over the mountains and occasionally descending into the 
valleys, bringing water and rain to the villages. This cere- 
mony was a sacred drama which represents the "divinities of 
the sky," and takes place in the sacred kivas once in four years. 
An old priest stands and blows through the body of the serpent 
with a pecuhar noise resembhng that ot a sea monster. The 
arrangement within the kiva is peculiar. The father of the sun 
sits upon a throne at the west end of the room. The high 
priest and priestess on either side of the throne. The war god 
sits at the left of the fire altar and feeds the sacred flames. The 
god-parents sit upon a stone ledge, which represents the third 
stage of the creation, each with a boy by his side on the ledge. 
Inside of the kiva are mounds of sand, on which are wands of 
feathers. Messengers of the north, east, south and west take 
these feathers, and go to each child and blow the sacred breath 
over the plumes into the mouth of the child. After this the 
feathered serpent appears. The high priest of the bow, of the 
sky, the priestess of the earth, ascend to the hatchway, holding 
a large earthen bowl to catch the water poured from the mouth 
of the serpent, Ko-lo-o-owit-si. Each god-father carries the 
holy water to the boys to drink, and makes a gift of the bowl 
to the boy. After this the priests catch the seed which is sent 
from the abdomen of the serpent, in their blankets, and distrib- 
ute the seeds to all present. In the morning the boys are taken 
from their homes to a distance from the village where they plant 
prayer plumes and make prayers to the sky divinities, the child 
repeating the prayers after the god-father. Here, then, we 
have sky worship, as among the eastern tribes, and it has 
the same elements, a belief in the future, a dependence upon 
the powers of nature, the presence of divmities, the necessity of 
initiation into sacred rites in order to take the benefits of the 
nature powers. The imagery is all drawn from the mountains, 
lakes, and rivers, and the personification of the rain clouds and 
the snow, but the symbolical geography is complete. 



The pyramid as a religious S3mbo], is the subject of this 
paper. We are first to inquire about the origin, growth 
and earlv use of the pyramid, and ascertain by this means, if 
possible, how the pyramid came to be a symbol. We shall, 
however, consider the pyramid as it is found in America, rather 
than Oriental countries, for we have here the earliest forms and 
the successive stages, and the primitive uses, and reasoning 
from analogy, we judge, that these will give us the real 
explanation. We go on the supposition that America is the 
home of iht pyramid, at least one of the homes, and that here 
we have a hislor}' of its growth and development. 

I. Our first point is as to the prevalence of the pyramid in 
America. It is well known that there are many pyramidal 
structures on the continent ; they may not be perfect pyramids 
like those of Egypt, nor are many of^ them as massive as those 
upon the banks of the Nile, yet they are very interesting and 
numerous, and are worth}' of study. 

I. Let us consider the difTerent classes of the pyramids on the 
continent. The pyramids of America differ from those in Asia 
and Egypt, in that they embrace a series of structures which are 
more or less in the pyramidal form, but which vary in size and 
shape, and are scattered over all parts of the continent. Under 
tliis head may be mentioned the rude and primitive mounds 
which are scattered through the Gulf States, but which have 
the pyramidal form. This would constitute the first class. Sim- 
ilar to these, but differing in geographical location and in size, 
are the massive pyramids of Mexico, many of which such as 
Cholula and Xochicalco, were natural eminences on which artifi- 
cial structures were erected. This constitutes a second class. Next 
to these the terraced pyramids of Mexico and of Central Amer- 
ica. These are wholly artificial ; and were, for the most part, 
erected for religious purposes, and yet there is little difference 
between them and the palaces found in the same region. This 
constitutes the third class. Under the fourth class we .should 
embrace those structures which are found associated with palaces, 
but which were pyramidal in form and were undoubtedly used 
for the sacred purposes of worship. This would leave for the 
fifth class the few perfect pyramids, such as are found at Teoti- 
huacan in Mexco, and at certain places in Peru. It will be seen 
from this that the p"ramids of America are quite numerous, 



and that they form a very important feature in the prehistoric 
architecture of the country. 

We give a series of cuts to illustrate these points: First, a 
view of the pyramidal mounds in Yazoo Pass, Miss., Fig. i ; 
second, a view of the pyramid of Cholula, Mexico, Fig. 2; third, 
the terraced palace called "the'Governor's House. "at Uxmal, Fig. 
3; fourth, the pyramid and palace at Palenque, Fig. 4; fifth, the 
pyramid at Teotihuacan, Fig. 5. These represent the different 

- •-- ^mim. 




■i Ti^ior?yw I ■■'■' ,v,:;:.'.'i g;';.::.::.:;:;.;:"^ 

=^ .=,-''.-•" ■"*•" ^v- = iTiiiiiiiiiiriiHiiiiiiiii^ 


=;•! "'*■.' 

"""':i. >»;'.','.■:.•,",'_■ 


'. . .W , , I 

->\\Ni;\; .:... 

Fiij. 1 — J'jjr(uiii(liil Mounds in Jli.ssi.t.s.j/jn. 

classes of pyramids in America. We call attention to the variety 
of types in these figures. 

It is singular what types of structure rule in the building of 
pyramids in America. In Egypt every pyramid seemed to 
have been built after the same pattern. In America every pyra- 
mid was erected after its own pattern ; scarcely two being found 
anywhere upon the continent which were alike, and few which 
resemble those of Egypt. Resemblances have been drawn 
between the terraced pyramids of America and those of Assyria, 



and some have supposed that we have an Assyrian instead of an 
Egyptian type; but the so-called terraced pyramids in America 
constitute only one class, and others differ so much from this 
class that we cannot say that the Assyrian type rules. A re- 
semblance has been traced betwen the stone structures of Mexico 
and the pyramidal mounds of the Mississippi Valley, and some 
have undertaken to trace an American type of pyramid. This 
seems more plausible than either of the preceding conjectures ; 
and yet the pyramids of Mexico differ so much from one an- 
other, and the mounds also differ, that it is difficult to trace any 
one type in them. 



J'^ig. 2 — Pyramid of Cholula. 

2. The size of the pyramid is to be considered. A compari- 
son has been drawn between the pyramids of America and of 
Egypt. It has been said that the pyramid of Cahokia and of 
Cholula are fully equal to those of Ghizeh and of Mycerinus. 
\\V^ must, however, distinguish between the horizontal extension 
of a natural or artificial heap of earth, and the elaborate la}'ers 
of stone, and grant to the Egyptians the more elaborate struc- 
tures. Cahokia cox'ers twelve acres; but was only ninety feet 
high, and it is uncertain whether it was natural or artificial. 
Cholula is larger at the base than anv one of the Old World 



pyramids, over twice as large 
as that of Cheops, but only 
slightly higher than that of 
Mycerinus. Many visitors have 
believed that the pyramid is 
only partly artificial, the"brick 
work" having been added to a 
smaller natural hill. Humboldt 
says: "The construction of the 
teocalli recalls the oldest mon- 
uments which the history of 
our civilization reaches. The 
temple Jupiter Belus, the pyr- 
amids of Meidoum,and Dag- 
hour, and several of the group 
of Sakkahra were also im- 
mense heaps of bricks, the re- 
mains of which have been pre- 
_. served during a period of 30 
I centuries down to our day." A 
l2 distinction must be, however, 
"S drawn between the ruins of 
i artificial structures and the im- 
£; mense earth-heaps; and the 
•!" imagination is to be restrained 
? in its efforts to draw the com- 
I parison. There is no pyramid 
7 in America which ever reached 
';i, the height of the Egyptian, 
^^ and no palace which was ever 
as elaborate as those in As- 

3. The geographical distri- 
bution. It has already been 
noticed that the pyramids of 
America are scattered over a 
large part of the continent. 
They seem, however, to be 
confined to certain belts of lat- 
itude. In a general way their 
location resembles that ot the 
pyramids in the Eastern hem- 
isphere. The pyramid seems 
to be a structure peculiar to 
the warm climate. It is prob- 
able that they were all devot- 
ed to sun-worship, and this 
will account for their having 



been confined to the torrid regions, sun-worship being the rehg- 
ion which prevails in those regions. 

In order to understand the number and sizes of the pyramids 
of America the reader is requested to examine the appended ta- 
ble, which gives the various structures, with their location and 
character and dimensions : 


1— 1 1 















102 feet sq. , 

28 feet 



Two stories. 


40 feet 



Five stories. | 

66 feet sq. 

45 feet 



Two stories. 

72x24 ft. ■ q. 

86 feet 



Three terraces. 


120 feet 



First terrace. 



66 feet sq. 

33 feet 



Temple or place. 

624x809 ft. 

70 feet 



Governor's House. 

Second terrace. 

545 feet sq. 

20 feet 


Governor's House. 

Third terrace. 


40 feet 


Governor's House. 


50 feet 


Governor's House. 

Pyramid E. 


65 feet 


^Palenque ... 

Palace I. 

First terrace. 


40 feet 


Palace I. 



30 feet 


Palace I. 

Tower G. 

30 feet sq. 

50 feet 


Palace I. 


20x150 long. 

20 feet 


Temple of :^ Tablets. 


110 feet. 


Temple of ;5 Tablets. 



35 feet 


Temple of the Cross. 


134 feet. 


Temple of the Cross. 



40 feet 


Temple of the Cross. 



15 feet 


Palace C. 

First terrace. 

350 feet sq. 

19 feet 


Second terrace. 


28 feet 


Pyramid F. 

Third terrace. 


50 feet 


Pyramid D. 



88 feet 


Temple of the Sun. 




Five Terraces. 





50 feet 





3 feet 









18 feet 

Mil la 







First terrace. 




Second terrace. 




Third terrace. 


32 feet 







Vera Cruz.— 

90 feet 

54 feet 

Pa pant la 

Seven-storied Pyramid 

m feet 

17 feet 



30 feet 


Pyramid and Shrine. 






1440 feet sq. 

200 feet 


Natural Hill. 


2 miles. 


Natural Hill. 



400 feet 


Natural Hill. 


5-5 X. 50 

16 feet 


House of the Moon. 




House of the Moon. 




House of the Sun. 

733 feet sq. 

203 feet 


House of the Sun. 



:» feet 


House of the Sun. 


Circle of Mounds. 

600 feet 

*See Fig. 8. 
+See Fig. 3. 
tSee Frontispiece, 
^See Fig. 4. 
.See Fig. 13. 


II. We are next to consider the question how came the pyr- 
amid to be in America. There are three theories in reference to 
this, namely: ist. The autochthonous theory. 2d. The theory of 
a transmitted cultus. 3rd. That of a common traditionary ori- 

We are to consider these theories in their order : 

I. In favor of the first theory, we give the opinions of various 
authors. Mr. H. H. Bancroft has written considerably concern- 
ing the origin of sun worship on the continent of America. The 
following may be said to be an epitome of his views :* 

The forc-:iS which minister to the requirements ot man's phy- 
sical nature may be said also to aid his intellectual progress. 
These torces are the configurations of the surfiice, the peculi- 
arities of soil, stimulus furnished by climate, and the character 
and supply of food. If color and race are dependent upon 
climate, why might not the tinge of thought and the peculiari- 
ties of religion also. There are zoological zones in which the 
elephant, the hippopotamus, the rhinoceros, the lion and the 
tiger abound. There are other zones in which the wolf, the fox, 
the bear, and other hardy creatures are numerous. The char- 
acter of the animals seems to partake of the nature of the sur- 
roundings. It is so with man, his habits, disposition, character, 
seem to be aftected by climate and surroundings, and so was his 
religion. Sua worship prevailed in Egvpt, in Babylonia, and 
on The banks of the Ganges, even when the civilization of those 
regions had reached its height. The religions of the people in- 
habiting these lands were naturally sensuous. Sun worship was 
a sensuous system. It always appeared among a self-indulgent 
and luxurious people, and was always atttended with sensuous 
rites. It diftered from animal worship in this respect. Some 
would regard it as the result of a sedentary life, and as attend- 
ant upon "agricultural pursuits, but it was more owing to the 
subtle influence of the climate and the physical surroundings, 
than the employment. Agriculture might le id to a sense of 
dependence upon the great luminary, and so the thoughts 
would be directed to it as to a divinity. The blazing heat of 
the sun would suggest to thi inhabitants of the torrid regions 
many traits of a personal character, and the different phases of 
the sun would be interpreted as the varied moods ol a divinity. 
Tnere was a combination of the nature powers in the torrid 
regions which made them seem like divinities to the people. 
Storm and sunshine, clouds and darkness, night and day, light- 
ning and thunder, rain and wind, were all divinities. Some of 
them symbolized war and death, oihers svmbolized wine and 
self indulgence. There was a strange mingling of personal 
gods and the powers of nature in all these regions." 

It was so among the Greeks, as well as well a^ among the 

*Seo Bancroft, Xative Races, Vol. Ill, page 292. 


Hindoos. The relij^ions of these well-known people are sup- 
pcjsed to be the result of climate and of ph3-sical surroundin<rs. 
They can alibi traced back to an ori<^inal nature worship. Nature 
powers were personified and at last were worshiped as personal 
bein<^s, the material form havinc^ dropped out from the popular 
conception. Dionysius, the god of wine, Venus, the goddess of 
lust, Apollo, the god of manly beaut}'. Mercury, the god of let- 
ters, Mars, the god of war, were originally planets which 
attended the great sun divinity. Zeus himself was the son of 
the sun. His father, Saturn, was a sun-god, the father of all 
the gods. We might go on. Such are the views which have 
become very fashionable. According to these views, the arch- 
itectural structures of this country, such as the animal mounds, 
the earth circles, pyramidal mounds, terraced pyramids, and 
the sun temples, were all the result of a natural development. 

The theory of the autochthonous origin of the pyramid 
has many advocates. Stiil, there are several difficulties in 
the case. (i). We are not sure that the conical mounds 
grew into the pyramidal earthworks or that the pyr- 
amidal earthworks have anything to do with the stone 
pyramids of Mexico, or that the stone pyramids of Mexico 
and Central America had their development on the Amer- 
ican soil, as they are widely scattered, and no one race 
can be said to have built them. (2). The traditions which have 
prevailed among the difierent tribes and races, among which 
these various structures are found, point to a diverse origin, for 
each of them, and come in as a conflictino- and rebuttinrr evi- 
dence; at least there are cross lines which must be reconciled 
before the theory is complete. Tlie northern tribes migrated 
from the northwest and erected their lumuM and remained in 
their savage condition, and never developed be3'ond the rude 
animal worship. The tribes in the Gull States also migrated 
from the west, but found the pyramids in the region and only 
adopted them as suitable to their modes of worship. The civi- 
lized tribes of Mexico also migrated from the north, but they 
found a culture which preceded them and so the whole subject 
is wrapped in a mystery and it is onh' conjecture when we say 
that one stage developed out of the other and one structure 
gave rise to another, for the people were diverse and their ori- 
cfin seemed to have been also diverse. 

2. The second theory is to be considered. It is that the 
pyramid was introduced into America. Religion might be 
transported as well as developed. Of course there would be 
a transformation as it was transported. It would naturally come 
to be accommodated to its surroundings. In this way we may 
account for the pyramid, the circle, the serpent, and other sym- 
bols in Amijrica. Mvthologlsts acknowledije that there was a 
traditionary religion in Asia and other countries of the east. 
And much of the symbolism in those countries is owinu to 



tradition. The two lines are to be recognized. The tradition- 
ary faith and the natural development of thought. This is 
illustrated in the case of the pyramid. This is supposed by 
some to have sprung up on Egyptian soil as a structure devoted 
to sun worship; by others to have been a mere adaptation of a 
structure to the purpose. It was originally an imitation of the 
traditionary mountain from which the first ancestors migrated, 
and this mountain was the type after which the pyramid was 
built. This we may see in the mythology of the Greeks. 

The theory of a transmitted symbolism is one which cannot 
be altogether rejected, for it has too many things in its favor 
for that. It is noticeable that this theory which the celebrated 
Max Miiller advocates, though his views have more regard to 
the languages, myths than to symbolism, and more to the 
Indo-European race than to any of the Allophyllian tribes or 

Fi(j. ', — Pyruiiiid at J\tlcin/iit>. 

3. The third theory is, however, the one which just now 
is the most interesting, and the most novel. It is that the pyra- 
mid was patterned after a tradition, the tradition of the moun- 
tains of the North. This brings us to the main point. Dr.Warren 
has spoken of the mountain which was the pivot of the world, and 
would make the pyramid to b^ in imitation of the mountain of 
the north. According to this theory the pyramid of Egypt 
would be the pivot of the earth, a theory which Dr. J. H. Seiss 
has carried out to an alarming extent. According to this theory 
the .symbolism of the east and the west, especially that which 
embraced traditions and astronomical signs, was derived from the 
early tradition of the mountain of the north. The following 
may be regarded as a summary of these views: 

Tne Greeks had no pyramids, and we rarely recognize even 
he circular tower, and yet there was a latent symbolism in the 



Greek mylholocry. which reminds us of the traditionary mount- 
ains. Zeus had his abode upon Mt. Olympus, and Juno was his 
consort. The temples to Saturn and to Jupiter were mere 
shrines. They did not admit the worshipers but were onlv the 
abode of the divinity, the same as the shrines upon the summit 
of the pyramids of Chaldea. They were also placed upon 
hii^h rocks to typify the mountain. This conception of the 
mountain being the primitive place of worship, the abode of the 
gods, and the center of creation was common among all the 
Asiatic races. The Mount of Meru or Harmoezd was the pil- 
lar of the sky and the navel of the earth It was situated in 
Thibet, the primitive home o( the human race. Olympus, 
Parnassus, Ida, were reproductions of it. This same world 

U'-k^- ' '^!ffl€f%^ '-^:V:■ 


Ft;/. 5.— Pyramid of Tcodhuacan. 

mountain was, however, known to the Egyptians. The famous 
oracle of Jupiter-Ammon was at Meroe, which possibly was 
named after Mt. Meroe or Meru. The Hindoos maintain that 
Mt. Meru is the navel of the earth. The Chinese terrestrial 
paradise was at the center of the earth — the palace of the center. 
Dr. \Vm F. Warren maintains that the ancient Mexicans con- 
ceived the cradle of the human race to be situated in thef;irthest 
north, upon the highest mountains surrounded bv clouds, the 
residence of Tlaloc, the god of rain. We recognize in these 
traditions the prevalence of a primitive nature worship, as well 
as to the original abode of the human race. The question 
arises whether the pyramid wa.s the outgrowth of this primitive 
tradition and the result of a transmitted faith. Dr. Warren 


sa3's, "ihe stupendous terraced pyramid of Cholulu was a copy 
and symbol ot the sacred paradise mountain of Aztec tradition, 
whicli was described as standing in the center of the middle 
country. The national temple of Tlaloc stood in the center of 
the citv of Mexico, whence four causeway roads conducted 
east, west, north and south. In the center of the temple was a 
richly ornamented pillar of peculiar sanctity."* 

The center and capitol of Peru was Cuzco, (bl., "navel,") 
whence to the borders of the kingdoms branched of^'four great 
highways, north, south, east and west, each traversing one of 
the four provinces into which Peru was divided. Dr. Warren 
quotes Gerald Massey who holds that the Mound-builders had 
retained this tradition, "Some of the large mounds left in Mis- 
sissippi were called navels by the Chickasaws, although the 
Indians are said not to have had any idea whether these were 
natural mounds or artificial structures. They thought Missis- 
sippi was at 'the center of the earth' and the mounds were as 
the navel in the middle of the human body." 

Dr. W. F. Warren has written a book which, to some, will 
account for the pyramid in America exactly as it accounts 
for the pyramid in Assyria and in Egypt, and prove that 
there was a common source for the pyramid in both 
countries. Some might object to this and say that the 
theory in the book was based upon mere conjecture, and . 
that 'there is no more plausibility to this than ihe first the- 
ory. We are, however, inclined to accept the facts as 
brought out by this book and to say that the tradition of the ' 
"mountain of the north," the "holy mountain," the "primitive 
abode of the gods," the "starting place of the human race," is 
to be discovered on this continent as well as in the historic re- 
gions of the east. Dr. Warren has referred to the tradition 
among the Choctaws, that at the time of the creation, a supe- 
rior being came down from above and alighting near the cen- 
ter of the Choctaw town, threw up a large mound or hill called 
the "sloping hill." Then he c-nised the red people to come out 
of it, and when he supposed a sufficient number had come out 
he stamped on the ground with his foot. When this signal of 
his power was given, some were partl}^ formed, others were just 
raising their heads above the mud, emerging into life and 
struggling for life. We have no doubt that many other tradi- 
tions and customs might be ascribed to the same source. Of 
course the theory of the local origin ot these myths will be ofl'- 
set to this one of the common origin, and yet we have the fact 
before us and are to keep our minds open to the suggestions 
whether overthrowing a theory of our own or not. 

III. Our third inquiry is as to the development of the pyramid 
on the American continent, i. There are writers who maintain 

••'Paradise Found," by Dr. W. F. Warren. Boston: Houghton & Mifflin. 



that the mounds or tumuli found in the Mississippi valley, are 
the primordial forms of the pyramid, and that there is an un- 
broken succession of structures on the American continent, 
from which the pyramid was developed. The theory is, that 
this succession ot pyramidal works lurnishes to us a view of 
the various stajres through which the pyramids in Egypt and 
Assyria passed before they reached their perfection. This is a 
very plausible theory and one that needs to be considered. It 
makes the prehistoric works of America, all the more inter- 
esting if we are to regard them as the forerunners of such 
remarkable hisioric works as the pyramids were. If it was 
the same continent that produced this series, we should cer- 
tainly conclude that we had learned the history of the pyramid. 
But, as the prehistoric series has disappeared from Asiatic 
countries, we are glad to recognize this succession of steps on 
the American continent even if we have to span a wide gulf to make 
the early historic and the prehistoric to connect. There are types 
here which seem to have anticipated the more advanced pyramids 
elsewhere, and we might imag- 
ine that these were the types 
from which the historic pyra- 
mids grew. There are also 
various structure which seem to 
furnish different stages of tht- 

growth of the pyramid, and it i.- ^^^^^te^^^=|^ 
very easy for us to make out a -/i=-"^=.— . 

plausible and interesting theory 
and imagine that we have a per- 
fect picture of what the pyra- 
mids in the East were before 
the historic structures were 
erected. We misrht c o n- 

i-Vy. ';. — TriiDCdtf'd Mound from the 
Ohio Valley. 

jecture many things and say that there was a gradual devel- 
opment from the one to the other. These different earthworks 
found in the Mississippi valley, show the stages through which 
the Mexican pyramid passed on its wav to completion. We 
might imagine that the large conical mounds and so-called 
havstack mounds form connectincr links between the tumuli 
and the truncated pyramids, and that the terraced platform 
houses of the Pueblos formed the connecting links between 
the inhabited earthworks of the Mississippi Valley and tiie 
loft}' teocalli found near the City of Mexico, and conclude that 
we had proven a succession of structures and a sure line of 
growth or development. These three links or steps in the order 
of progress which are found in the burial mounds, pyramidal 
earthworks, and the sacred teocalli would to some prove that 
the pyramid had its origin and growth on this continent. We 
might reier to the correlation of these difTerent structures, to 
the state of society and to the different modes of worship, and 



say that the tumuli were built b}' a savar^e people and devoted 
to the rude primitive animal worship. And that the truncated 
pyramids were erected by an agricultural people, and devoted 
to sun worship, and that the teocalli belonged to a civilized 
people and were devoted to the highest form of nature worship 
possible. This view has a great deal of plausibility about it, 
and yet great caution is needed in reference to it. 

2. We illustrate these points by a series of figures. First, by 
an ordinary truncated mound from the Ohio valley. Fig. 6. 
Second, by the view ot the mound at Cahokia. Fig. 7. Third, 
by the cluster of platforms and pyramids which are found at 
Copan in Central America. Fig. 8. 

It will be noticed that there is a complete series here, and 
that there are some remarkable resemblances between these 
structures and those of Oriental countries, especially in the 
grouping of the mounds near together, and in the arrangement 
of the terraces along with the pyramids. It will be noticed 
that these structures are scattered and situated in different 

Fig. 7 — Mound at Cahokia. 

parts of the continent, but this only illustrates how numerous 
pyramids are on the continent. The subject is suggestive, and 
we might dwell upon the analogies and resemblances, but we 
use the figures onl}- to illustrate the point. 

It will be no*iced that there are great resemblances between 
the American pyramids. 

These resemblances are found, first, in the location of the pyra- 
mids among a sedentary people, the Mound-builders and the 
Mexicans both being partialhxivilized; second, the shape of the 
structures are very similar. They are platforms on which, form- 
erly, temporary structures were erected. If they were temples, 
they were temples which were inhabited ; third, the probable use 
of these structures. The pyramidal mounds of the Mississippi 
Valley and the platform pyramids of Central America, were un- 
doubtedly devoted to the form of worship. There were shrines 
on all these pyramids which were dedicated to the sun. The re- 
semblances between all the pyramids in America are ver\- strik- 



ing. This constitutes the strongest argument for an autoch- 
thonous origin. 

3. VVe are to consider what may be safe ground as to the de- 
velopment of the pyramid in America. Tnc following are sug- 
gestive points : 

(I.) The primordial forms of the pyramid may be discovered 
here, the mounds generally being regarded as the germ of 
the pyramid. (2.) The successive stages through which the 
pyramid passed, are exhibited in the dirterent kinds of mounds. 
(3.) The typical pyramid with its terraces and shrines is found 
in Mexico and Central America. (4.) The use of the 
pyramid as a sacred structure and as a symbol of nature wor- 
ship is learned here. The perfect pyramid is not discovered, 
and yet the earlier lorms are very common. 

Fiff. S.—l'/a/f >nii.s (111(1 I'lyraniid.s at Cajxiii. 

The Mound-builder's pyramid certainly shows uniformity. 
The Aztec pyramid may also be recognized in Mexico. The 
Maya architecture may also be recognized in the pyramids of 
Yucatan. The Peruvian style of architecture may also be recog- 
nized in the pyramids of Peru. It is possible that we shall yet 
trace a common type in all the pyramids ; but that i.s as far as 
we may go. The race quality, or the ethnic quality may be rec- 
ognized in the type of the pyramids. Some have undertaken to 
show a connection between mounds and Mexican structures. 
Others have undertaken to trace a resemblance between Aztec 
and Toltec, and between the Nahua and the Maya ; but this is 
a difficult task. The variety of types baffle every investigation of 
the kind. Prof Short says: "Maya architecture furnishes 
evidences of growth, and may be classified into the Chiapan or 
ancient, and the Yucatan or modern styles. It is a question, 



however, whether the distinction between the ancient and the 
modern type of pyramid can be clearly established." The Chi- 
apan or ancient style is exhibited in the imposing remains of 
Palenque; but the pyramids of Uxmal differ materially from 
those at Palenque, and we have so diverse types in the same 
region, that we are at a loss to determine which is the earlier 
and which later. 

IV. This brings us to the question of the object of the pyra- 
mid and the law of the parallel development. The parallel 
lines are very manifest. It is in accord with the general law of 
progress. The architecture of the east seems to have devel- 
oped in about the same order that it did in the west. If we 
take any of the departments of architecture, its earliest use and 
form, iis ordinary ornamentation, the religious symbolism, 
which embodied itself in it and the technic arts which found 
their scope there, we shall find a parallel in each. 

Fif/. 9. — Mound at St. lAnd.s. 

I. For instance, the idea of utility. Ferguson says: "The wig- 
wam grew into a hut, the hut into a house, the house into pal- 
ace, the palace into a temple, bv well defined and easily trnced 
graduations." And yet he says "those styles which are admired 
Through all time are in the original, the products of ethnical 
taste." According to this theory we might say that burial was 
the purpose for which the pyramid was erected, and that the 
law of utility as well as of ethnical taste, would account for it. 
Utility and worship were combined in many of these prehis- 
toric Dyramids. We can hardly account for the earthworks, 
or for the platforms of the pyramids, unless they were used 
for habitation as well as for purposes of worship. It is prob- 
able that they were the foundations for the houses of the 
chiefs, and that the worship of ihe people was led by the chief 


or by the priest who belongs to his household. It has been 
known that many of the large pyramidal mounds were used as 
burial places; this would show that utility and worship were 
combined. . The great mound at St. Louis contained a burial 
chamber 75 feet long, 12 feet wide, 8 feet high, and several 
bodies were contained in it, which were covered with beads, 
and other paraphernalia of royalty. We give a cut to illus- 
trate this: Fig. 9. The pyramid of Cahokia is another spe- 
cuTien which proves that utiHty and worship were combined. 
It will be seen that there were platforms and terraces in this 
P3'ramid, and it arose in successive stages to a very consider- 
able height. The size of this earthwork shows that it was 
used for habitation. It covers nearly twelve acres, and was 
six hundred feet in diameter at the base, but only about 90 
feet high. It is possible that it was built for a refuge in high 
water, or it may have been like the other structures in the 
South, designed as a platform on which the caciques might 
build their houses. The terraces, however, show a diverse use 
and it is very probable that on the summit there were fires 
kept lighted as sacred to the sun. This structure reminds us 
of the sacred mountains of the North, and has striking analo- 
gies to the pyramids of Mexico, as well as to those in Assyria. 
There were three uses to this earthwork. It was a burial place 
and abode for the people and a massive temple to the sun, and 
illustrates the point. See Fig. 7. 

2. The law ot ethnic development is an important point and 
illustrates the case. There are several elements which consti- 
tute the basis for architectural progress, or the source of archi- 
tectural growth. The advance of art and architecture was 
as follows : First, the hemispherical mounds ; second, the 
pyramidal platforms; third, the terraced pyramids; fourth, the 
massive and finished pyramids, with its simple and silent shape 
impressing one with an air of mystery. Subsequent to this, 
the mechanical principles came in. The arch, the pier and 
lintel, and other parts of the building. But for the purposes of 
worship, the simple pyramid seems to have been the most 
effective, and the effect may have been owing to the propor- 
tions. It seems strange that these pyramids in America 
should have assumed proportions which are so true to nature 
and so expressive of grandeur. The towers at Mugheir and 
Birs, Nimroud in Assyria, are not more correct in their pro- 
portions than are these. The pyramids of Cheops and My- 
colenus and others upon the Nile are, to be sure, higher than 
are any of the pyramdial mounds of America. And yet the 
universal testimony of travelers is, that these mounds are very 
impressive. Such is the case with the great mound at Caho- 
kia, and it is true, to a certain extent, even of the conical 
mounds. Their size, their proportions and their situation com- 
bining to produce a very singular impression upon the mind. 


This is one of the most remarkable features of the prehistoric 
works of this country. They were designed as religious 
structures, and the sense of awe and fear existed in the minds 
of the builders to a wonderful extent. (3.) The impressibility 
of the human mind is another point. Architectural grandeur is 
often found in primitive structures, giving the impression that 
this sense was strong in the primitive mind. The pyramids 
of Egypt, the topes of the Buddhists, the mounds of the 
Etruscans, depend almost wholly for their effect upon their di- 
mensions. This is the case in America: pyramids were made 
massive to impress the minds of the people. There are, to be 
sure, a lew places where high art and elaborate ornamentation 
were made to gratify the sense of beauty and the more delicate 
emotions, but mass was mainly depended upon. The mounds 
are often impressive on account of their size. They are placed 
upon high hills and by this means they are made impressive. 
Their outlines when thrown against the sky give an impression 
of grandeur, which is irresistible. At times the gateways to 
the sacred enclosures are erected in the pyramidal shape, and 
have a massiveness about them which give the same impres- 
sion. The simplicity of these structures add to the impressive- 
ness. It may seem strange that the mounds and earthworks of 
the Mississippi Valley should be compared to the pyramids of 
Egypt; and yet we are convinced that many of the elements of 
grandeur were embodied in both classes of structures. We 
may say the same impression was made upon a rude people by 
these massive earthworks that were made upon a more culti- 
vated people by the more finished stone structures. Simplicity 
and grandeur, solidity and the sense of the sublime were 
combined in them all. The propylfe before the temples at 
Carnac, in Egypt, are scarcely more impressive than are the 
rude massive walls which form the gateway to the sacred en- 
closure at Newark. 

The pyramids of Cheops are scarcely more impressive, 
notwithstanding their size, than are the massive pyramidal 
mounds which lift iheir heads above the high blufis which 
overlook the valley and the city of Vincennes. The pyramidal 
mound at Cahokia gives the same impression, although this 
was erected upon the level plain and not upon an eminence. 
The sense of grandeur is exhibited by many of the pre-historic 
works of America. The pyramid form seems to have favored 
this. The pyramid of Cholulu in Mexico, the great teocalli at 
Uxmal, were impressive works of architecture; their very 
simplicity and massiveness, giving a sense of stability, and 
it may be that type of structure was adopted as much for its 
effect as for any other reason. The solid works were first 
given to sun worship. 

We find there striking analogies between the pyramids in the 
west and the east. The three uses to which the pyramidal 


mounds were subject are very suggestive. In the first place 
the fact that they were burial places reminds us of the pyra- 
mids of Egypt. The earliest kings of Egypt utilized the pyra- 
mid for this purpose, and it is said that the "mastaba" or square 
built tomb found in Egypt was the structure which there an- 
ticipated the pyramid. Second, the fact that the terraces and 
summits of these pyramidal mounds were used as the places 
from which the morning salutation was given to the rising sun 
is suggestive of the use of the terraced pyramid in Assyria. 
The terraces there were devoted to the different planets and on 
the summit of the pyramid in Mexico, there was a shrine. 
Three of the pyramidal mounds were inhabited and so were the 
elevated platforms ot Assyria and Babylonia. This analogy 
between the structures of the east and the west is most remark- 
ble. The question arises, however, whether these p3Tamidal 
mounds were symbolic structures. They were cevoted to sun 
worship and may have been symbols. It has been conjectured 
that they were oriented, as the pyramids of Egypt were, yet this 
is doubtful. They were sometimes surrounded by circular walls 
and enclosures, giving the idea that ihe sun symbol was in- 
tended. The terraces with which the pyramids abound have 
been explained in the same way. There are certain pyramidal 
mounds which have very high conical tumuli on the summit, as 
if the purpose was to light fires upon them which should be 
sacred to the sun. The fact that the}^ were used by the na- 
tives, subsequent to the discover}'' of America, for the purpose 
of sun worship, is another proof The fact also, that they were 
in the territory of the agricultural races and that they belonged 
to the stage or grade of civilization in which sun worship pre- 
vailed. We should say then that the rudimentar}^ and primi- 
tive forms of worship were exhibited here and that we have in 
the P3'ramid a prehistoric structure which was anticipated of 
the historic pyramid. Primitive Sabeanism prevailed here as 
well as among the Chaldeans, so that we may examine the 
structures in America and ascertain what that system was in 
prehistoric times elsewhere. 

V. This brings us to the subject of the pyramid as a re- 
ligious structure. Were we to study the pyramids of Mexico 
and of Central America and ascertain their religious significance 
we might learn from these how the pyramids of the east, came 
to be used as they were. One perhaps will throw light upon 
the other. There is no doubt that the pyramid was primarily 
devoted to sun worship. This was one of the uses to which 
the pyramids in America were subjected; it was the chief use 
to which the stone pyramids were consecrated. The historical 
and traditional records show this. There may be exaggerations 
in some of these accounts, and jet it is evident that the pyra- 
mids were devoted to sun worship and that many bloody sacri- 
fices were offered. The tocalli reeked with human gore. The 



victims were taken to the summits, were prostrated upon the 
sacrificial stone, their bodies laid open by the priests, their 
hearts torn out, while still quivering, and thrown into the face 
of the sun, while the forms were hurled down the steps of the 
pyramid to the bottom. It was a bloody and cruel scene. 
Long lines of victims were said to stand waiting to be sacri- 
ficed. There is no doubt that long processions marched around 
the terraces and approached the shrine on the summit. It was 
a cruel divinity which they worshipped — the sun divinity — not- 
withstanding the beneficence which was ascribed to him. The 
sacrificial stones, both covered with symbols of sun worship, 
but in the midst of the symbols was the channel which would 
carry ofi' the flood from the face of the sun. The symbol was 
covered with the blood of human victims and this was called 
washing the face of the sun. The pyramid in Mexico was de- 

Fig. 10.— Palace and Pyramid at Palenque.* 

voted to the most cruel practices. We do not learn that human 
sacrifices were offered on the pyramids of the east, and yet we 
are not sure but that they may have been practiced in prehis- 
toric times. The instrument of sacrifice, the stone knife, is seen 
depicted among the hieroglyphs of Egypt and a few are sup- 
posed to have survived the earliest times. The sacrifices by 
Abraham of his son Isaac on the mountain would indicate that 
the practice had prevailed in that region. 

' * Bancroft says- "The basis of the foundation structures are usually rectangular, 
the laro-est dimensiods being 1500 feet square, as at Zoyi ; while many have sides of 
from :iOO to SOO feet. Most of them have two or more terrace platforms, from 20 to 50 
feet high Most of them have stairways, some of them 100 feet wide. All the pyra^ 
mids are truncated, none forming points at the top. The edifices are usually built 
on a summit platform; one building on a summit, but in some of them enclosing a 
courtyard. The buildings are long, low and narrow, the greatest height 31 feet, great- 
est width 39 feet, greatest length 322 feet." 



The association of the pyramids with temples, shrines and 
palaces is to be considered in this connection. In some of 
the localities, as at Copan, the structures are crowded to- 
gether in close proximity and a strange combination of 
pyramids, platforms, temples and shrines is apparent See 
Fig. 8. It would seem from this that worship was as 
much an object as habitation. If fires were lighted upon 
the summit of the pyramids, then the number of them sur- 
rounding one massive platform would be exxeedingly impres- 
sive. It was a strange superstition which should crowd the 
temples and the palaces so near together and then cover them 
all with a glare of sacrificial fires. The stairways were steep, 
the platforms elevated, the shrines were some of them in the 

Fig. 11 — T7)e Pyramid of Quemada.* 

most mysterious shapes, while obelisks and idol pillars stood 
about the foot of the stair-cases. Everything that could make 
the place impressive and cover it with the air of mystery, was 
devised. In Mexico the stair-cases were guarded by immense 
serpents' heads, the bodies of which formed the balustrades or 
rails to the stair-cases. The shrines on the summit were some 
of them in the shape of serpents' mouths held wide open, and 

* Bancroft says of this pyramid : " Here we have a square enclosure; its sides 150 
feet, bounded by a terrace 3 feet high, 12 feet wide. Back i^f the terrace, on three 
sides, stand walls 20 feet high. The north side of the square is bounded bj' the steep 
sides of a central clift". In the centre of this enclosure is a trincated pyramid with a 
base of :?8x;515 feet, 19 feet high, divided ihto several stories. In front of the pyramid, 
and nearly in tlie centre of the square, stands a kind of altar, 7 feet square and 5 feel 
liigh. A very clear idea of this square is given in the following cut and presents an 
interior view. The pyramid, the central altar, the eastern terrace with its steps, 
standing walls, and the natural clifl', are all clearly portrayed : 


the fires that were burning within made them fearful to look 
upon, showing that cruelty was the spirit which prevailed here. 
In Yucatan the worship was more peaceful, but the archi- 
tecture was more elaborate. Our supposition is that the p3'ra- 
mids were temples sacred to sun-worship and were S3'mbolic 

We give a cut of the so-called palace and pyramid at Palenque. 
and the pyramid accompanying it to show that there may have 
been a combination of palaces and of temples (Fig. lo) in the 
same structure or in close proximity There is no doubt that one 
these buildings was a palace and occupied by the cacique of^the 
village or city, but that the temple was in close proximity to it on 
the pyramid, which is in the background. The view of Char- 
nay is "that these ancient cities were occupied by a people among 
whom the ranks and grades of society were very distinct, and 
that the buildings in ruins are the remains of palaces and tem- 
ples. The huts of the common people have perished." This is 
in opposition to the theory advanced by Mr. L. H. Morgan that 
they were the communistic houses, and that the common peo- 
ple dwelt in these as well as the chiefs. The illustration, we 
think, refutes the theory. Mr. H. H. Bancroft has undertaken 
lo restore one of these palaces and its accompanying pyramid 
and shrine— the one at Palenque. Whether the restoration is 
correct or not we conclude that the explanation is a good one. 

Fig. lo. 

Still there are those who deny this and who would make the 
pyramid a place of habitation or a fortress. Mr. Ad. F. Bande- 
lier, has made a study of this pyramid of Cholula. He calls it a 
fortified pueblo, and says: "If we imagine the plateaus and 
aprons around it, covered with houses, possibly of large size, like 
those at Uxmal and Palenque, or on a scale intermediate between 
them and the Pecos communal dwellings, and many other places 
in New Mexico, we have then, on the mound of Cholula, 
as it then was, room for a large aboriginal population."^ This, 
how ever, reduces the sacred structures of Mexico and Yucatan 
to a very common-place condition, and would do away vyith the 
relicrious sentiment which was so powerful. The historical an- 
nal^of the aborigines prove that the chief object of this pyra- 
mid was to support a temple. At the time of the conquest 
there was a stairway which led up the slope to the temple. 
The Spaniards under Hernando de Cortez had a fierce hand to 
hand conflict on the slopes and notwithstanding the desperate 
resistance of the natives, they burned the magnificent structure 

on the top. 

The number and variety of the pyramids would prove that 
they were all used for religious purpose. Wrijfcrs have specu- 
lated as to who were the builders of the pyramids in Mexico, 
Yucatan and Honduras, and have endeavored to trace a resem- 
blance between the Nahua and the Maya religions. There is 


no doubt that the two were very similar, and that the same cult 
which prevailed in Mexico during the time of the Conquest, 
prevailed in Uxmal and Palenque in prehistoric times. The 
study of the ruins in all of these localities, reveals a remarkable 
resemblance in the structures. There are pyramids at Tusapan, 
Papantla, at Misantla, at Centla, in Vera Cruz, which formeriy 
had shrines upon the summit and which were ascended by wide 
flights of steps. They show that the pyramidal type was the 
structure which was devoted to worship. The ruins of Oajaca, 
of Mitla, and the pyramid at Tehuantepec show the same thing. 
Mitla was a palace, and yet there are pyramids here. The pyra- 
mid of Tehuantepec was erected with stair-cases on the four 
sides and plastered, hemispherical walls forming the corners. 
A highly ornamented platform and shrines on the summit. 

VI. We are to consider the analogies which exist between 
the symbolisms of the two continents, especially that which is 
found in the pyramidal structures. These analogies have never 
that we are aware of, been traced out, and yet they are many 
and interesting. We shall first take up the pyramids of Egypt 
and their uses and see what structures in America resembled 
them ; next, consider the terraced pyramids of Assyria and 
Chaldea, and lastly speak of the traditionary views which have 
embodied themselves in many structures both in the Oriental 
continent and the American continent, (r.) Let us consider the 
pyramids of Egypt. In Egypt the pyramids are so-called perfect 
pyramids, that is, their sides are smooth inclined planes, the 
steps having been filled in and the whole veneered. No such 
pyramids are found in America, though there are occasionally 
structures whose face seemed to have been built up smoothly 
and covered with plaster. In one respect the pyramids of Egypt 
resemble the pyramids of America, especially the pyramidal 
mounds. They were devoted to burial purposes. There are 
sixty-six pyramids in Egypt. The oldest is supposed to be that 
of Senefru, of the fourth dynasty. It was prior to that of 
Cheops. The latest are supposed to be those of the twelfth 
dynasty, those of Lake Meros. All of these were sepulchers. 
It is a question which antedated the other, the Assyrian or the 
Egyptian. Lenormant says that " temples in the form of pyra- 
mids (that is, pyramidal or terraced temples) must be considered 
quite a recent institution in Chaldea, as compared with what they 
were in the country ofShinar or Sumar, where national tradition, 
like that in the Bible, placed the construction of the first of them 
side by side with the confusion of tongues." No one dared to 
attribute the foundation of the original pyramids of Babylon and 
Borsippa to any historical king ; for they were said to be the 
work of a " very ancient king," or perhaps even more correctly 
of " the most ancient king" or "first king." This is an interest- 
ing inquiry. In America burial mounds probably preceded 


pyramidal earth-works, at least in the order of succession, if not 
in date. The question is whether the pyramid as a burial place 
antedated that which was used as a temple devoted to sun-wor- 
ship. It is maintained by some that the tope and the tumulus 
gave rise to the pyramid, and that the platform temples were a 
later invention. Others, however, maintain that the pyramids 
were originally devoted to sun worship, and that their use as a 
burial place was I'ater. That it originated in the ambition of the 
kings to perpetuate their names and the religious idea about the 
necessity of the preservation of the body. It is possible, how- 
ever, that the two grew on parellel lines, the terraced pyramids of 
Assyria on one, and the perfect pyramid of Egypt on the other. 
The earliest known structure in Egypt was a quadrangular 
building, in the shape of a truncated pyramid, called the "mastaba." 
It was used as a tomb. It reminds us of the truncated pyramid 
or pyramidal earthworks of the Mississippi Valley. Many 
mastabas are from 30 to 40 feet in height, 150 feet in length, and 
80 feet in width, and are veneered with hewn stone. The mastabas 
are arranged in regular streets in Ghizeh.and in this respect they 
resemble the pyramids of the Gulf States, which were often 
arranged in rows and around a square. See Fig. 2. 

The pyramidal mounds were used as burial places ; this is the 
case of the great mound at St. Louis, also with that at Etowah, 
Ga., and is supposed to be the case with that at Cahokia. There 
is another analogy between the mastabas and the burial mounds. 
A superstition prevailed that the mummy or the statute was a 
double of the soul. The corpse received visits from the soul, 
which from time to time quitted the celestial regions.* 

A narrow aperture was left to the " serdab" in the center of 
the mastaba. A similar superstitution prevailed among the 
Mound-builders. There was a double to the soul, and frequently 
the skull was trephined so that the soul might go in and out, and 
claim the body for its own. The same superstition is supposed 
to have prevailed in prehistoric times in Europe. The "dolmens," 
which were the abodes of the dead, had holes in the stone at the 
door, which were supposed to be for the passage of the soul in 
and out of its abode. 

There is another parallel found in the offerings made to the 
friends. In Egypt each mastaba was composed of a receptacle 
for the dead and a chapel for the living. The chapel was the 
lieception room af the "double," for the idea was that a double 
belonged to the dead, a soul and body. The relations, friends, 
and priests celebrate funerary sacrifices at the commencement of 
tlie seasons. They placed offerings at the exact spot leading to 
the entrance to the chamber, or eternal home of the dead. Pro- 
vision was made for a perpetual ob.servance of the feast. Painted 

*See Maspero's Egyptian Archreology, page 110. 


or sculptured reproductions of persons and things were placed 
upon the walls of the chapel, so that in years to come the "double" 
might see himself depicted upon the walls in the act of eating 
and drinking, and so he ate and drank. Here then we have the 
animistic conception, the same conception which prevails among 
the Ojibwas, who to this day build houses over graves. They 
leave the sides and ends of the house open, the roof being sup- 
ported by corner posts, but on the floor they place the provisions 
which are offered to the spirits ot the dead. They believed in 
the double as much as did ever the Egyptians. 

(2.) The American pyramids were devoted to sun-worship. 
There is no doubt about the prevalence of sun-worship on this 
continent, or the devotion of the pyramid to that cult. In Assyria 
and Babylonia the pyramid was consecrated to the sun, moon and 
stars, the number of the terraces being either three, after "the triad 
of gods of the three worlds," or five, after the five planets, or seven, 
as at Borsippa, after the sun and moon and the five planets. The 
terraces were, as at Ecbatana, of different colors, according to 
the sacred colors of the planets, the upper gold, the second silver, 
next red, blue, yellow, white, the lowest black, according to the 
hues ascribed to the sun, moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus 
and Saturn. 

The great temple of the sun at Pekin was called the Temple 
of Heaven. It was also built in terraces, like the pyramids of 
Chaldea. It was surrounded by a wide pavement, and in the 
pavement were nine circles of standing stones, the circles repre- 
senting the nine heavens, the stones increasing in nines until 
the last circle was composed of eighty-one stones. In the center 
ot these circles was the altar at which the emperor knelt on their 
New Year's Day, the twenty-first of December, at the winter 
solstice, and acknowledged himself inferior to the heavens, and 
offered sacrifices to secure a prosperous season. The twenty-eight 
constellations of the Chinese zodiac were contained in this Temple 
of Heaven. Tablets were erected to the sun, moon and stars. 

The pyramids in Mexico and Central America were also built 
in terraces and had shrines on their summits, and in the shrines 
were tablets which were sacred to the sun and to the nature 
powers. A few of these pyramids present massive serpents, 
which remind us of the dragon of the east, their gigantic forms 
forming balustrades, their monstrous jaws guarding the approach 
to the stairways which led to their summits. 

There are many places where these analogies can be traced. 
We give cuts to illustrate this. We refer first to the temples at 
Palenque; one of them called the "temple of the cross" (Fig. 
12); another the "temple of the three tablets" (Fig. 13); a third 
the "temple of the sun;" names given them from the tablets they 
contained. These shrines were standing on pyramids, but were 
near buildings which have been called palaces. The temple of 



the cross was on a pyramid and faced the east. The "temple 
of the tablets" was also upon a pyramid, and facing the 
east. Each of the four central piers on this front has bas-reliefs 
in stucco, representing human figures, and each bearing in its 
arms an infant. The "temple of the sun" was also on the sum- 
mit of a massive pyramid, and was furnished with double corri- 
dors and an open door, through which the sun might shine at 
its rising. This temple also had a bas-relief in its interior, on 
which the face of the sun could be seen peering out from the 
midst of many other symbols of the nature powers. 

II. This brings us to the subject of the orientation of the pyr- 
amids. First, let us say that a book has recently appeared in 
England called "The Dawn of Astronomy." This book treats 

I^g. 12. — Temple of the Cross. 

mainly of the mythology and early astronomy of Egypt, but it 
enables us to draw a comparison and is of great importance in 
understanding the subject of astrology in America. It shows 
the difterent stages through which ancient astronomy passed, 
and reveals the views which were held in the east and the differ- 
ent elements which were brought together by the history of sky 
worship. The author divides the observation of the heavenly 
bodies into three stages — the first for wonder and worship; the 
second for utility, the observation of the seasons, the direction 
of religious feasts and the processes of agriculture ; the third for 
the knowledge of astronomical principles; the first two stages 
being associated with mythology. 

According to Trlr. Lockyer, the temples and the pyramids 
were all of them oriented. Some of them were oriented toward 
the sun while on the equator, others were oriented to the rising 
and setting sun at the solstices, and still others toward the stars. 



The author thinks that the pyramids of , Memphis, Tanis, Sais, 
Bubastis were equatorially oriented, that the temples of Abydos 
and Amen-Ra were solsticially oriented. The alignment of the 
temples is the most interesting feature. There are temples which 
are so aligned that the sun at the summer solstice shines through 
the whole length, 6oo yards, and shines upon the shrine in the 
deep interior, causing it to shine with a "resplendent light." This 
was the case with the temple at Amen-Ra, as well as the more 
modern temple Edfu. The entrance to this latter temple was 
guarded by a massive exterior pylon. This reduced the light 
so that it should shine into the temple itself. Further, the arches 
from the entrance to the end, were covered so that within the 
penetralia, there was only a dim religious light, but the sun 
shone through the entire temple and struck upon the wall of the 
shrine at the back. The temple was directed l^oward the place 

t tvyAm .yiv ' . 

I I I M 5 0"I5 O R |_RirSTO 

Fig. IS.— Temple of the Tablets. 

of the sun's setting, and the narrowing doors were so contrived that 
the temple should prove a great astronomical telescope. The 
narrow shaft of light was directed and concentrated until it 
reached the shrine, which answered as the eye piece. We have 
here the true origin of our present method ot measuring time. 
The magnificent burst of light at sunset into the sanctuary would 
show that a new true solar year was beginning. The summer 
solstice was the time when the Nile began to rise. The priests 
were enabled to determine not only the length of the year, but 
the exact time of its commencement. This, however, they kept 
to themselves. The year in common use, called the vague year, 
began at different times of the true year through a long cycle. 
Here we find the analogy between the Egyptian and the American 
systems very startling. 

There seems to have been also two systems of orientation in 
Central America — one for the temples, the other for the palaces. 
The temples were oriented to the solstitial sun and the palaces 
to the cardinal points. We find, at least, that the shrines were 
so placed upon the pyramids that the sun would shine through 
the double door- way and strike upon the tablets upon the back 
of the inner sanctuary, where were the various symbols of the 


cross, tree, bird and sun. The light would cause these symbols 
to stand out clearly. The offerings were presented to these as 
if they were divinities. There was a difference between the pyra- 
mids of the different cities. Those of Palenque were all oriented 
to the cardinal points, but those of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza and 
others seemed to have been oriented to the solstices, or at least 
were out of the regular line. Here the alignment of the walls 
of the temples formed an angle with the walls of the palace and 
its courts, showing that there was a regard to the solstitial sun in 
the temples, but an orienting to the cardinal points in the palaces. 

In reference to this subject of orientation, the Tusayan Indians 
place their sacred or world divisions on an angle ot from lorty- 
five to fifty degrees west of north, and construct tfieir kivas 
accordingly, resembling the well-known placement of the Baby- 
lonian and'Assyrian temples, obliquely to the cardinal points, the 
angles instead of the sides facing north, west, south and east. 
The arbitrary placing of the world quarters was carried further 
by the ancient Incas, as shown by the orientation of Cuzco than 
by any other people, except the Chinese. The sun was the all- 
iniportant factor in the universe, the maker of day and the 
renewer of light. 

The seven ancient spaces were sometimes symbolized in the 
ceremonial diagrams, which were made on the floor with prayer 
meal, six chambers or houses being arranged around a central 
one. What is most singular, the ground plan ot the ruins of 
Casa Grande shows a similar arrangement around a central room. 
This conveys the idea that there may have been a knowledge 
of the solstitial sun and an arrangement of the chambers or 
rooms in the villages so as to catch the rays of the rising sun. 

It is the opinion of Mr. Stephens and Walter Fewkes that the 
four cardinal points of the Moquis are determined by the suni- 
mer and winter solstices. The first point toward the north is 
determined by the notch on the horizon from which the sun sets 
at the summer solstice, the second west by its setting in the 
winter, the third by its rising in winter, and the fourth by its 
rising in the summer. 



Among the many surprises which the conquerors of Mexico 
experienced, the greatest was when they discovered the cross in 
the midst of the heathen temples of this far-off land. Their 
first explanation was that St. Thomas the Apostle, who was re- 
puted to have been a missionary to India, had also made his 
way to America, to here introduce the Christian symbol. As 
they continued to notice it and learned of the human sacrifices 
which were offered and other cruelties which were practiced, they 
concluded that it was the work of the devil ; that he had taken 
this symbol of peace and had made it sanction the most cruel 
atrocities, and thus had deluded the people and led them to their 
own destruction. We do not wonder at the indignation of the 
priests when they discovered this symbol associated with so cruel 
practices, for they were ignorant of the real history of the cross. 
The cross is a pre-Christian symbol, and had existed in Asia long 
before the history of Europe began. It was an instrument of 
punishment in the days of Christ, and it was only because so 
innocent and holy a being as our Savior was crucified upon it 
that it became sacred to Europeans. Were we to look upon it 
as it existed in Asia before the days of Christ and as it existed 
in America before the time of the discovery, we should better 
understand it as a symbol. We shall in this paper consider it 
in that light. We shall endeavor to disassociate it from pre-con- 
ceived ideas and to place it befofc ourselves as any common 
symbol, having no more sacredness in our eyes than the earth 
circles, the stone relics, the Mexican pyramids, but an object of 
study like them. We must acknowledge its prevalence through- 
out t'he continent, and shall probably be led to the conclusion 
that it was a symbol of nature worship, very much as the circle, 
the crescent, the square and other figures were. 

The cross as a sun symbol or weather symbol is the subject 
o( this paper. We are to show that it was so used. It was one 
of the symbols of sun worship. 

I. Our first point is, the cross was used by the aboriginal 
tribes as a sun symbol. These tribes were in the habit of using 
symbols to e.xpress astronomical facts ; they in fact had sym- 
bols which were so e.xtensive and were so similar that they 
could be understood by the different tribes. Their symbolic 
and sign language corresponded in this respect; both were 


mediums of communication between the tribes, even when the 
language was a barrier. The symbolism differed, however, from 
the sign language, in that it had to do mainly with religious 
thoughts and with mythologic ideas; while the sign language 
dealt with the common affairs of life. There was a common 
mythology among all the tribes, at least a common astronomy 
and for this reason the symbols were easily understood. The 
study of the sign language has revealed this, and the familiarity 
with their mythology is bringing the fact out more and more. 
The means by which this symbolism has become known are 
varied. Certain books, such as the Walum Olum, contain cer- 

FiQ. 1. Piy- -• ^C- ^■ 

tain symbols ; the pictured records, such as the Dakota calendar, 
contain others ; the various pictograghs which have been 
preserved contain still other symbols; the rock inscriptions 
contain others. On these the cross is occasionally seen, though 
the circle and the crescent are more common. In these various 
records the circle was the symbol of the sun, the cross was the 
symbol of the winds, the square was the symbol of the four 
quarters of the sky, and the crescent the symbol of the moon. 
The following are a few of the symbolic figures common among 
the wild Indians. In the Walum Olum of the Delawares we 
find the extended land and sky symbolized by a square with 
diagonal lines, which resemble an ordinary envelope, with circles 
to signify the sun and moon and stars in the separate divisions. 
See Fig i The earth was symbolized by a dome or hemisphere; 

J_ 1 


Fig. h. J^^O- 5. ^''9- ^• 

sometimes the dome was surmounted by a crescent, to symbolize 
the moon as ruling over the earth. See Figs. 2 and 3. 

The points of the compass were symbolized by a cross with 
straight bars. Fig. 4. The winds with arrows placed at right 
angles to the ends of the bars, to signify the direction of the 
winds.* The Moquis have signs of the sun which consists of 
circles with rays shooting out from them, the circles having either 
faces or eyes and mouth on the inside. Fig. 5 and 6. Mr. C. K. 
Gilbert has given figures taken from rock etchings in Arizona, in 
which the face of the sun is placed at the intersection of the 

*See Brinton's "Tho Lenape and their Legends," p. 182. 



bars ot the cross. These symboHzed the four quarters of the 
sky, with the sun in the zenith. Circles similarly placed at the 
intersection of the cross-bars, but without dots in the center, 
symbolized the stars. 

Mornir.g and sunrise were symbolized by the Moquis by a 
dome, with a face in the dome and lines or rays streaming out 
from the dome. In the Ojibwa pictograph, as reported by 
Schoolcraft, the sky was symbolized by a simple arc composed 
of two curved lines, but in the Moqui etchings it was symbolized 
by two curved lines or by a curved line with a turretted figure 
above the line. Rain was sym- 
bolized by lines drawn below 
the curves or arcs, to signify 
the drops as falling from the 
clouds. Lightnings were sig- 
nified by a crooked line ema- 
nating from the arcs or by a 
crooked line surmounted by 
a turretted figure.* Among 
the Zunis there are statuettes 
which probably were designed 
to represent the same facts. 
See Fig. 7. In these the im- 
age probably represented the 
sun divinity. On the head of 
the man was a turretted head- 
dress representing the nature 
powers, with arcs to represent 
the sky, turrets to represent 
the lightnings, and feathers 
above the turrets to represent 
the clouds, and projections at 
the side to represent the winds 
or the points of the compass. 
We do not discover in these 
the symbol of the cross, and 
yet the same nature powers were represented, but with different 
symbolic figures.! The turretted figures may, however, signify 
the houses of the sky and the habitations of the divinities of the 
sky. At least we have in these, imitations of the terraced houses 
of the Pueblos. 

II. Our next point is that the cross is a common object in 
pictographs and rock descriptions. There are many inscribed 
rocks which contain figures of the cross. In some of these 
the cross is associated with the circle and in some, though rarely, 
with animal and bird figures. 

Fi(j. 7—Zuni Head Dress, 

*See Mallery's Sign Language, Vol. I., Bureau of Ethnology, p. 371. 
tSee Second Annual Report, p. 395. Zunis and Wolpis. 



We give here a few cuts to illustrate this point. Mr. WiUiam 
McAdams has described the figures which he discovered on the 
bluffs at Alton, 111., aud caves at St. Genevieve. Mo., and has 
kindly loaned us the cuts. The following is his description : 

" Some three or four miles above the city (of Alton), high up 
beneath the over-hanging cliff, which forms a sort of cave shelter, 
on the smooth face of a thick ledge of rock, is a series of paint- 

Ji'ig. S. — Rock Iiiscriptions in Illinois. 

ings, twelve in number." They are painted or stained in the 
rock with a reddish-brown pigment which seems to defy the 
tooth of time. It may be said, however, that their position is so 
sheltered that they remain almost perfectly dry. Their appear- 
ance denotes great age. They doubtless have been there for 
centuries. * * « Half the figures of the group are circles of 
various kinds, probably each having a different meaning." See 
Fig. 8. " On the left are two large birds apparently having a 
combat; to the right of the birds is a large circle enclosing a 
globe, and before this is the representation of the human form. 

o e 

?^°}i f "^^ 


Fig. 9. — Rock lascriptions in Missouri. 

with bowed head and inclined body, as if in the act of offering 
to the great circle something triangular in shape, not unlike a 
basket with a handle. Among all the ancierat pictographs seen 
this is the only one where the human form is depicted as if in 
adoration to the sun. * * Counting from the left, the eighth 
figure seems to represent some carniverous animal with a lo«g 
tail. The next figure of the series is a large bird with extended 
wings, which seem to come from the base of the neck. This 


curious winged creature seems to be having a combat with a 
circle with two horns, at some Httle distance there follows the 
representation of an owl, the whole ending with a small red 
circle. * * There is another very interesting group of picto- 
graphs to be seen in a small cavern on the banks of the Saline 
river, near where it empties into tne Missssiippi. The figures 
are eighteen in number, and are carved or cut in the smooth face 
of the limestone walls. See Fig. 9. There are two lines of the 
series, one on each wall of the cave. The relative position of 
the figures on the wall is shown in the cut. The size of the 
figures may be inferred from the representation of the human 
foot in the upper line: this measures 14 inches from the extrem- 
ity of the great toe to the heel." * * The following are Mr. 
McAdams observations : " These circular figures are not uncom- 
mon among the pictographs of the Mississippi and are of great 
interest, more especially those having the cross enclosed. The 
illustrations of the human footprints with those of birds and 
other creatures are found in many places. The representation 
of birds, however, as if in combat over a circle or planet is more 
rare, and we are not aware that it has been found except along 
the banks of the Mississippi, where it occurs a number of times, 
* * It will be remembered that somewhat similar figures are 
shown in the pictographs on the bluffs above Alton; the same 
figure is repeatedly shown on both sides of the cave (at this 
place). Along the Illinois river, some twenty-five or thirty miles 
from its mouth, is another cave situated in a limestone bluft, in 
which is another series of carvings. * * The figures are 
nineteen in number; three of them representations of the human 
foot; seven of them bird-tracks; nine of them circles with dots 
or rings in the center."* 

Mr. McAdams speaks of the mounds ; a number of them were 
on the bluff above the pictograph at Alton, many of them near 
the salt springs on the Saline river, and others near the carved 
rock on the Illinois river. He gives a cut of a cave in a lime- 
stone cliff at Grafton, 111., above which is a mound and a circle 
inscribed on the cliff between the mound and the mouth of the 

Mr. McAdams has called attention to certain water vases now 
in possession of the St. Louis Academy ot Science, on which 
are painted various ornamental figures. These figures are com- 
posed of circles with spots, circles with crosses, circles with 
pointed rays, and are supposed to be sun symbols as well as 
ornaments^ and he makes the important remark that the fig- 
ure of the circle with serrated edge is not an uncommon one 
among the pictographs. This comparison between the pottery 
ornamentation and the rock inscription is an important one, and 

♦See Records of Ancient Races, McAdams, pp. 22, 25 and 28. 


we quote Mr. McAdams because of his opportunity in studying- 
the inscriptions. His extensive collection of Mound-builders' 
pottery enables him to speak somewhat authoritatively on the 
subject of ornamentation. Of the crosses found in the pottery 
he says : " The peculiar cross with the curved arms in the 
center, is a very common one on the pottery from Illinois, Mis- 
souri and Arkansas, and some of the most beautiful burial vases 
are decorated with it in some form." He says, " It is very in- 
teresting to learn that figures very much like these are 
among the oldest of symbolic forms known. We have taken 
scores of burial vases from the mounds of Illinois, almost exactly 
duplicating the most peculiar shapes of many from Egypt." 
He then gives a cut of a vase from a tomb at Thebes, in Egypt, 
The comparison is not a very close one and yet it is suggestive, 
for we find the circle and the spots on both vases. A better 
illustration is the one which is given by the same author, by 
which the analogy between the suastika of the East and the bent 
cross in these pottery ornamentations is brought out. Of this, 
however, we shall speak hereafter. From this point to the Gulf 
of Mexico, and from there to the Isthmus of Panama it was the 
prevailing cult. The fact, however, that in this same region 
there were monstrous animals depicted upon the rocks, and that 
these animals represented the mythological creatures which 
were worshipped by the so-called animal tribes, would indicate 
that it was the border line, and that sun worship and animal 
worship met at this point. 

III. The cross as a symbol among the mounds will next 
engage our attention. We have already spoken of the circle 
and the cross contained in the earthwork near Portsmouth, 
Ohio; these were evidently symbolic of sun worship. Squier 
and Davis have spoken of this . " It consists of four concentric 
circles placed at irregular intervals with respect to each other, 
and cut at right angles by four broad avenues which conform in 
bearing, very nearly to the cardinal points. A large mound is 
placed in the center ; it is truncated and terraced, and has a 
graded way leading to its summit." On the supposition that 
this work was in some way connected with religious rites, this 
mound must have furnished a most conspicuous place for their 
observance and celebration.* 

There is another structure which shows that the Mound-build- 
ers were familiar with the figure of the cross and that they 
embodied it in their earth-works. It has been described by 
Squier and Davis in their "Ancient Monuments". The work here 
figured is found near the little town of Tarlton, Pickaway county, 
Ohio, in the narrow valley of " Salt Creek," a tributary of the 
Scioto river, eighteen miles northeast from Chillicothe, on 

*6ee Ancient Monuments, p. 81. 



the great road to Zanesville. See Fig. lo. In position it cor- 
responds generally with the remarkable work last described 
though wholly unlike it in torm. It occupies a narrow spur of 
land at a prominent point of the valley ; its form is that of a 
Greek cross, ninety feet between the ends, and elevated three 
feet above the adjacent surface. It is surrounded by a slight 
ditch, corresponding to the outhne of the elevation ; in the cen- 
ter is a circular depression, twenty feet across and twenty inches 
deep. The sides of the cross correspond very nearly with the 
cardinal points. Immediately back of it is a small circular ele- 
vation of stone and earth, resembling that in connection with 
the Granville efifigy and denominated an altar in the description 
of that work. Several small mounds occur near by; and upoa 
the high hill, a spur of which is occupied by the cross, are sev- 
eral large mounds."* 

Fig. lO—Ch-ossin Picknvay County, Ohio. 

IV. The relics which exhibit the symbols of sun worship will 
next engage our attention. There are many such in all parts of 
the country. We shall at present speak of those which are found 
only among the mounds. Mound-builders' relics may be divided, 
according to the material of which they are composed, into 
several classes. First, the inscribed shells ; second, the orna- 
mented pottery ; third, the carved stone specimens. We shall 
dwell mainly upon the shell gorgets or inscribed shells. 

(i) First among these are the shell gorgets which contain 
circles. Descriptions of these have been given by various 
authors, but all agree in making the figures upon them 
symbols of the sun. The figures represent a single dotted 
circle in the center, around which are placed three crescent-shaped 
figures arranged in the form of a wheel ; outside of these are 
several dotted circles arranged in a band, which surrounds the 

*See Ancient Monuments, page 98. 



crescent wheel, the number of the circle^ varying from four to 
six. Outside of these is still another band, which is filled with 
dotted circles, varying in number from twelve to fifteen. Scat- 
tered over the whole field there are small dots which have been 
punctured into the shell. Here then we have a complicated 
sun symbol. A central sun, three moons, which are supposed 
to rule the year; next, the suns, which represent the seasons or 
the divisions of the year; next, the suns or circles, which repre- 
sent the months or divisions of the seasons; next, the stars or 
dots, which possibly represent days. We are reminded by these 
<?;orgets of the sun circles of Mexico, which always have the sun 
symbol in the center and the symbols for the season arranged in 
circle around the center. How it should happen that these rude 
shelHgorgets should have symbols so similar to the circles and 

Mff. 11— Bird Gorget. 

symbols on the highly ornamented calendar stones of Mexico is 
a mystery. The fact gives rise to many conjectures, {a) Either 
the Mound builders were a degenerate race from the same stock, 
or (b) they borrowed ideas from the Mexicans and embodied 
them in this rude way on shells, or {c) there was a transmission 
of thought from a primitive time when all were together ; the 
Mexicans having added to the simple rudiments all the elaborate 
and complicated symbols which have have grown up with their 
increased culture and civilization. There is one lesson to be 
karned from the analogy. Sun worship existed in different 
stages throughout the country. The symbols on the gorgets 
marks the lowest stage, while those on the calendar stone marks 
one of the higher stages. 

(2) The shells which contain quadrangular figures and birds* 


heads. These we place among the sun symbols, for we can ex- 
plain them in no other way. Mr. W. II. Holmes has described 
these. See Fig. II. The following is the description : " In the 
center is a nearly symmetrical cross of the Greek type, enclosed 
in a circle ; outside of the circle are eight star-like rays, orna- 
mented with transverse lines, the whole representing a remarkable 
combination of the two symbols, the cross and the sun. Sur- 
rounding this symbol is another of a somewhat mysterious 
nature. A square frame-work oi four continuous parallel lines 
looped at the corner, the inner line touching the tips of the star- 
like rays Outside of this are the four symbolic birds, placed 
against the side of the square opposite the arms of the cross. 
These birds' heads are carefully drawn. The mouth is open, the 
mandibles are long, the eyes represented by a circle, and a crest 
springs from the back of the head and neck. The bird resembles 
the ivory-billed woodpecker more than any other species." 

These gorgets are evidently sun symbols, the rays of the sun 
being indicated by the points and the beams by the radiating 
lines. The cross in the center of the circle may be intended as 
a weather symbol, either indicating the points of the compass or 
the four quarters of the sky. The quadrangular figure may 
have reference to the same fact, or possibly may symbolize the 
four seasons of the year. The birds' heads may also have refer- 
ence to the nature powers, a substitute for the the thunder bird. 
Six of these shell gorgets were discovered among the mounds 
mainly in Tennessee and Georgia. They have been ascribed to 
the Cherokees, though they may have belonged to the Natchez. 
The Natchez were sun worshippers and possessed an elaborate 
symbolism. There is no doubt but that the Mound-builders of 
this region were sun worshippers, and these symbols would in- 
dicate that they had a mythology resembling that of the Zunis 
and other tribes among which sun worship prevailed. The 
Zunis divided the sky into four parts, and made an animal divinity 
to preside over each one of the parts. The astronomy of the 
Mound-builders is unknown, but these are undoubtedly astro- 
nomical symbols. 

(3) The spider gorget. A very interesting series of shell gorgets 
is the one which contains images of the spider. Several of these 
are in the possession of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, 
Mo.; they have been described by Mr. W. H. Holmes. He 
says: "The spider occurs but rarely in aboriginal American art. 
Occasionally it seems to have reached the dignity of religious 
consideration, and to have been adopted as atotemic device. 
Four examples have come to my notice : two from Illinois, one 
from Missouri and one from Tennessee. The spider is drawn 
with considerable fidelity to nature. It covers nearly the entire 
disk, legs, mandibles and abdomen reaching to the outer marginal 
line. The thorax is placed in the centre of the disk, and is rep- 



resented by a circle. Within this a cross has been engraved, and 
on one specimen the ends of the cross have been enlarged, pro- 
ducing a form much used in heraldry, but one very rarely met 
with in aboriginal American art. The head is heart-shaped, is 
armed with mandibles, the latter being ornamented with a zigzag 
line. The eyes are represented by small circles with central 
dots ; the legs are correctly placed in four pairs upon the thorax; 
the abdomen is heart-shaped and is ornamented with a number 
of lines and dots, which represent the natural markings of the 
spider. In reference to the cross, it has been suggested that it 
may have been derived from the markings upon the backs of 
some species. The cross here shown has, however, a very 

Fig. 12 — Spider Gorget. 

highly conventionalized character, and what is still more decisive 
it is still more identical with figures found upon other objects. 
The conclusion is here as elewhere that the cross has a purely 
symbolic character."* 

The spider gorget was evidently symbolic. It contains all of 
the symbols which were commonly used in the astronomy of the 
sun worshippers. The circle will first be noticed. 

The body of the spider, and in fact the whole disk of the shell, 
is covered with circles. There are circles upon the head of the 
spider; there are circles enclosing the spider ; also a circle in 
the center of the spider upon the body; in one case there are 
circles enclosing the spider, two circles surrounding the rim of 

♦See Figs. 2, 3 .and 4, Plate Ixi, Second Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, p. 288 



Fig. 13— Spider with Cross. 

the gorget, a scalloped circle making the edge of the gorget, and 
perforations dividing the circles from one another within the 
gorget. These were evidently symbolic of the sun. 

The cross is, however, 
the most remarkable fea- 
ture of these spider gor- 
gets. It is. to be sure, 
varied in shape, but is 
evidently a symbol. The 
peculiarities of the cross 
are to be noticed. In one 
it is a common plain 
cross enclosed in other 
circle, see Fig. 13; in 
another the cross is in 
the form of the suastika 
or fire-generator of the 
east, its arms are bent, see 
Fig. 14; in another there 
is a cross in the center 
on the body of the spider 
and two peculiar crosses 
in the shape of the Greek tau on the abdomen of the spider 
See above. The question aiises how came the Mound-builders 
by these symbols ; is it a mere coincidence, or was there a trans- 
mitted symbolism? 
The spider was a 
wa t e r d i v i n i t }' 
among the Zunis. 
We can trace the 
symbol so far, but 
we go no farther 
It is possible that 
the creature was 
used to represent 
thesun divinity. In 
that case we should 
say that the differ- 
ent parts represent- 
ed the different 
parts of the sky, the 
four legs symbol- 
izing the fourquar - 
ters, the head and 
abdomen the upper 
and nether regions, the body the central sun, the cross on the body 
the points of the compass, the bars and rings on the abdomen 
the seasons, the zigzag lines on the m.andibles the lightning, the 

Fig. lU— Spider Gmget. 


tau some one of the nature powers. This may be a mere conjec- 
ture, and yet the figure is very suggestive. It would seem from 
this as if the Mound-builders were familiar with these astronom- 
ical facts, and that they were able to symbolize them in this 
way. The symbolism of the Zunis has been studied and some 
remarkable points brought out. The mythologies of the Indians 
would indicate that a similar symbolism might have prevailed 
among them or their ancestors. We do not know where this 
mythology came from, whether it was transmitted from the east 
or whether it grew up on American soil, yet the myth of the 
" four brothers," who represented the four winds and the four 
points of the compass, was a very common one. 

(4.) The serpent symbol is to be mentioned in this connec- 
tion. We have already spoken of this. See Fig. 15. Thirty 

or forty specimens of gorgets 
engraved with the serpent 
symbol have been found The 
great uniformity of the design 
is a matter of much surprise, 
{a) The engravings are al- 
ways placed upon the concave 
side of the disk. (/;) The ser- 
pent is always coiled, the head 
occupying the center of the 
disk. [c] The head is so 
placed that when the gorget is 
suspended it has an erect posi- 
tion, the mouth opening to- 
ward the right hand, [d) The 
eye of the serpent is always 
near the center of the figure 
and surrounded by a varying 
number of circles, {c) The 
mouth of the serpent is 
sometimes represented in profile, and sometimes as if project- 
ing forward, the nose and mouth being visible. (/) In most of 
the specimens there are joints in the body of the serpent, the 
joints being represented by a number of circles with a dot in the 
center. In a few cases the serpent seems to have legs, though 
the marks which resemble legs may be intended for the joints of 
the body, {g) Every one is represented with rattles. 

(5) We come now to a very interesting series of gorgets, 
namely those which contain the figure of the cross without any 
other symbol. It seems singular that this figure should be found 
as a separate .symbol among the mounds, but so it is. Mr. W. 
H. Holmes speaks of this fact. He says : " It should not be 
forgotten that the cross was undoubtedly used as a symbol by the 
prehistoric nations of the nations of the south and consequently 

Fig. lo—Seijent Gorget. 



Fig. IS^Qross on Shell Gorget. 

that it was probably also known in the north. A great majority 
of the relics associated with it in ancient mounds and various 
places are undoubtedly aboriginal. We find at rare intervals 

designs that are 
characteristicall y 
for eign; these 
whether Mexican 
or European are 
objects of special 
interest, and merit 
the closest exam- 
ination. That the 
design under con- 
sideration as well 
as any other en- 
graved upon these 
tablets is symbol- 
ic or otherwise 
significant I do 
not for a moment 
doubt; but the 
probabilities as to 
the European or American origin of the symbol of the cross 
found in this region are pretty evenly balanced." He, however, 
says: "I have not seen a single example of engraving upon shell 
that suggested a 
foreign hand or a 
design with the ex- 
ception of this one, 
that could claim a 
European deriva- 
tion. Some very 
ingenious theories 
have been elabor- 
ated in attempting 
to account for the 
p res e nee of the 
cross among Amer- 
ican symbols." 
Brinton believes 
that the great im- 
portance attached 
to the points of the 
compass, the four 
quarters of the heavens, by savage peoples has given rise to this 
symbol of the cross. With others the cross is a phallic symbol, 
derived by some obscure process of evolution from the venera- 
tion accorded to the reciprocal principal in nature. It is, how- 

Fig. 17 — Cross on Copper Disk. 



ever, frequently associated with sun worship and is recognized 
as a symbol of the sun. Such deHneations of the cross as we 
find embodied in ancient aborig-inal art represent only the final 
stages of its evolution (degeneration?) and it is not to be expected 
that its origin can be 
traced through them. In 
one instance a direct deri- 
vation from nature is sug- 
gested. "The ancient 
Mexican pictographic 
manuscripts abound in 
representations of trees, 
conventionalized in such 
a manner as to resemble 
crosses." By comparison 
of these curious trees 
with the remarkable cross 
in the Palenque Tablet, I 
have been led to the belief 
that they must have a 
common significance and 


The analogies are 

i^Sr. IS — SuMStika on Shell. 

indeed remarkable. The branches of these cross-shaped trees 
terminate in clusters of symbolic fruit, and the arms of the cross 
are loaded down with symbols, which, although highly conven- 
tionalized, have not yet entirely lost their vegetable character. 

The most remarable fea- 
ture, however, is that 
these crosses perform like 
functions in giving sup- 
port to a symbolic bird, 
which is perched upon the 
summit. This bird appears 
to be the important feature 
of the group, and to it, or 
the deity which it repre- 
sents, the homage is of- 

We turn now to the 
shell gorgets. It will be 
noticed that a great varie- 
ty of crosses are contained 

Fig. ly-Cross on Shell. -^ ^^^^^ pjgg j 6, I /, 1 8, 

and 19. Some of them are very rude, consisting of mere 
cross lines with an attempt at circles and dots; some of 
them have cross-bars, the bars being cut out in such a way as to 
bring out the shape of the cross. This particular specimen 
given in the cut (Fig. 17) is a piece of copper and not shell; 



others consist of cross-bars with several parallel lines traversing 
the bars, the space between the bars being filled with cross 
hatchings ; still others containing figures of the cross, with the 
bars bent at right angles, forming a sort of wheel around a cen- 
tral point. These gorgets were all taken from mounds in 
Tennessee. They show that a great variety of symbolism pre- 
vailed there. We call attention to the different peculiarities of 
the cross. There are fifteen different figures of the cross. All 
but three of them are contained within circles. The crosses are 
nearly all of the same kind, namely the Greek cross. Only two 
variations from this is apparent, namely the cross with the arms 
bent at right angles and the cross with the arms in the shape of 
scrolls. See Plate I. 

The cross has about the same shape, whether found in the 
spider gorgets, the bird gorgets, or on a gorget by itself. The 
most important point is that the cross of America is the Greek 
cross, occasionally, in the shape of St. Andrew's cross. The 
one which the missionaries or Spanish explorers carried with 
them was the Roman cross. If the symbol was borrowed by 
the Mound-builders from the whites it would have been in the 

shape of a Roman rather than a Greek cross. 

Fig. 20. 


Mg. M— Shape of the Crosses Found in American Ornamentation. 

are a few Roman crosses found in the mounds, but they are always 
exceptional. Tw^o figures are to be seen on the plate, one of 
them having a single bar and another a double bar across the 
upright; these resemble Roman crosses, and may have imitated 
the silver "catechumen crosses" which were so common. These 
relics, however, are modern. The crosses with the curved or 
bent arms are especially worthy of notice. These have b^ some 
been called Phoenician. They resemble the figures which are 
common in the east, and are distributed throughout the whole conti- 
nent of Asia. They are found in the ancient ruins of Troy and 
in the modern symbols of Hindostan. They are regarded as 
fire-generators, but are also symbols of the nature powers. There 
is one peculiarity about these bent crosses in America ; they all 
turn to the left. In oriental countries the suastika is generally 
bent to the right, though in a few cases to the left. How^ this 
particular symbol could have reached America and been buried 
so deeply in the mounds is a mystery. It must have been intro- 
duced before the times of history, for it is not a form which is 


commonly used by the historic peoples. The Mound-builders 
must have borrowed it from some other than the white people. 
It is probably a pre-Christian symbol, having been introduced 
into America in prehistoric times. 

That the cross contained in the relics was a prehistoric sym- 
bol is evident from the use and repetition of the number four. 
It will be noticed that there are on all the gorgets, and es- 
pecially those containing the cross. If we take the regular figure 
there are four bars and four spaces, and four lines on the bars, 
and four perforations between the bars. In the figure where 
there are so many dotted circles there are four suns in the spaces 
and on each of the arms; and in the figure where there is a 
large circle there are four projections beyond the circle. In the 
figure where the cross has bent arms there is a dotted circle in 
the center, but four perforations at the angles and four circles in 
the spaces. So if we take the spider gorgets we find the spider 
contained within four circles, and that it has upon its abdomen 
four bands, and in one case a figure resembling the Greek tau. 
which was a common symbol in Mexico but is strangely out of 
place here. See Plate I. 

In the bird gorget the number four is repeated. There are 
four sides to the quadrangle and four loops, formed by four lines. 
There are four bird's heads with four stripes in the neck, and 
four lines or bars in the crest. There are four spaces in the center 
of the figure and four bars to the cross; but in one specimen four 
holes are substituted for the cross. The repetition of this num- 
ber four in all the gorgets is significant. 

This uniformity amid diversity can not be the result of acci- 
dent. Mr. Holmes says: "Were the design ornamental we 
should expect variations in the parts, resulting from difference 
of taste of the designers; the zones would not follow each other 
in exactly the same order; particular figures would not be con- 
fined to particular zones ; the rays of the volute would not always 
have a sinistral turn, or the form of the tablet be always circular 
or scalloped." The Indians had a superstition about the number 
four. There were four points of the compass, though these were 
supposed to belong to the four winds. There were four seasons 
as well as four quarters to the sky. The Mexicans held that 
there were four periods of creation and four suns. The wild 
tribes have myths of the four brothers, which express both the 
cardinal points and the winds that blow from them.* 

The Creeks celebrated a festival to the four winds. They 
placed four logs in the center of a square, forming a cross, the 
outer ends pointing to the cardinal points. In the center of the 
cross the new fire is made. The Blackfeet arrange boulders in 

nVhen Capt. Argoll visited the Potomac in 1610, a chief told him, "We have five 
gods in all. Our chief god appears often to us in the form of a mighty great hare; 
the otlier four have no visible >*iape, but aFe indeed the four winds which keep the 
four corners of the eartii." See Brinton's Myths of the New World, p. 181. 


the form of a cross, which are attributed to the " old man in the 
sun who sends the winds ;" they mark his resting-places; the 
limbs of the cross representing his body and arms. Among the 
Delawares the rain-makers would draw upon the earth the figure 
of a cross, and cry aloud to the spirit of the rains. The Navajoes 
have an allegory that when the first man came up from the 
ground, the four spirits of the cardinal points were already there. 
The Quiche legends tell us that the four men were first created 
and that they measured the four corners and the four angles of 
the sky in the earth. There wives were the four mothers of our 
species. In the Yucatan mythology the four gods were supposed 
to stand at the four corners of the world supporting the four 
corners of the firmancnt, very much as in Norse mythology four 
dwarfs held up the skull of Odin to symbolize the sky. 

V. We now turn to consider the position which the cross 
held in the hieroglyphics of the civilized races. We have so far 
considered it as found among the uncivilized. The tokens 
among theseare very primitive; rock inscriptions, shell gorgets, 
earth-circles, carved images, and the symbolism seems to be 
as rude and primitive as the tokens themselves. Among the 
civilized races the symbolism is much more elaborate, but the 
ideas are the same. There are many crosses among the writings 
of these races; they are found not only in the manuscripts and 
books which have been preserved, but in the hieroglyphics and 
tablets which have been discovered. 

We shall first consider the manuscripts or codices. We are 
indebted to Dr. Cyrus Thomas and Dr. D. G. Brinton for our 
information on this.* The codices are largely symbolic. They 
contain a kind of picture writing very much as do the 
rock inscriptions, but are more systematic and are more 
easily interpreted. They have been studied as well as the 
alphabets in which they are written, though the study has not 
yet resulted in anything satisfactory. We shall not undertake 
to interpret these codices, but only to show their symbolic char- 
acter and to show that the symbols of the cross and the sun are 
contained in them. We give several figures or cuts which will 
illustrate the point. One thing has been secured — the names 
and symbols for the four cardinal points, and a few of the 

The names of the codices are as follows : 

First. The Codex Cortcsianus, which contains the Tableau 
des Bacab, or plate of the Bacabs, supposed to be a representa- 
tion of the gods of the four cardinal points. The Codex Pere- 
sianus which, contains a kind of tabular arrangement of certain 
days, with accompanying numbers. Next, the manuscript 

*See manuscript Troano. 

See Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. 



Troano, which has about the same arrangement. Next, the 
Dresden Codex, which contains four columns of five days, cor- 
responding precisely with the Maya days. Next is the Borgian 
Codex, which is Mexican and not Maya, bnt which gives the 
calendar in the form of a square, each square surrounded by a 
serpent; the heads of the four serpents brought near together at 
the center, which is indicated by a figure of the sun. Next is 
the Fejervary Codex, which has plates similar to the Tableau 
des Bacab. From these codices we find that the cardinal points 
were symbolized, and that colors were given to them — yellow to 
the east, white to the west, black to the north, and red to the 
south. From them we also find that there were tour ages, four 
elements, four seasons, four cardinal points, and four epochs. 
The years were symbolized — one by the flint, another by the 
house, another by a rabbit, another by a reed ; and the elements 

Fi(j. 21. 

Fif). 2:. 

were also symbolized in the same way. The air by the rabbit, 
the fire by the flint, the water by the reed, the earth by the house 
but among the signs on all of these was the cross. The signs 
for the days are given in several of the manuscripts ; the Codex 
Troano and Landas Alphabet. See Plate II, at the right hand. 
It will be noticed that there crosses in all of the columns ; crosses 
with the sun symbol or circle in the center. The day Muluc 
has this symbol. This is significant, as the names of the days 
are derived from nitural phenomena. The hieroglyphs for the 
points of the compass contained in the manuscript Troano has 
also the cross with the circle in the center of them, especially 
the hieroglyphs for the east and the west. 

First. The order in which the groups and characters are to 

»See Brinton's Books of Chilan Balam, p. 16 and 17. Also a study of the Manuscript 
Troano, in Contributions to North American Archaeology, p. 144. 



be taken is around to the left, opposite the course of the sun. 

Second. The cross, as has been generally supposed, was 
used amoncj these nations as a symbol of the cardinal points. 

Third. It tends to confirm the belief that the birds were 
used to denote the winds. This fact also enables us to give a 


Fig. 2h. 

signification to the birds' heads on the en- 
graved shells found in the mounds. "^ * 
Take for example the birds' heads shown 
in Fig. 12. Here is in each case the 
four-looped circle corresponding vviih 
Fig.2s. the four loops of the Cartesian and 
Fejervary plates, also with the looped serpent of the Mexican 
calendar stone, and the four serpents of Plate 48 of the Borgian 
Codex. The four bird heads on each shell are pointed toward 
the left, just as on Plate 44 of the Fejervary Codex B., and 
doubtless have the same signification in the former as in the 
latter — \.\\q. four zuinds or winds of the four cardinal points. If 
this supposition be correct, of which there is scarcelv room for 
a doubt, it not only confirms Mr. 
Holmes' suggestions, but also indi- 
cates that the Mound-builders fol- 
lowed the same customs as the Nahua 
nations and render it quite probable 
that there was more or less inter- 
course between the two peoples. 
We give a few cuts to show 
symbolism which prevailed in 
manuscripts. One of these is 
Mexican symbol for the day (Fig. 23), 
and another is the Mexican symbol 
for the year (Fig. 24); another is the 
symbol lor the house (Figs. 21 and 
22); another is the symbol for the 
temple or shrine (Fig. 25). It will ^ 
be noticed that the house has a wall 
composed of blocks, each block 
marked with a circle, but at the top 
of the wall is a cross. In the figure 
for the shrine there appears to be a 
seat or a throne. On the back of the 
throne are two crosses and above it 
another cross. There is another figure 
of the house contained in the Dresden 
were from the manuscript Troano. 

VI. We turn now to the carved stone figures and idols to show 
that the cross is used as a sun symbol. There are man}' speci- 
mens of this kind; they are mainly found in Mexico and in the 
ancient cities of Yucatan. These figures were evidently sym- 
bolic and were parts of the symbolism of the sun. They are 

FiiJ. ,'.7. 

codex. The former 



sometimes ornamented with human faces, the faces being 
characterized by a protruding tongue, but more frequently with 
the heads and tails of serpents; in some of these the carving is 
very elaborate and the ornamentation very complicated. We 
give a few specimens of these carved idols and altars. 

I. First is the cross of Teotihuacan. See Fig. 26. It will be 
noticed that this is an altar in the shape of a cross, the arnis of 
the cross forming a support for the altar, but the base of it is 
ornamented with peculiar figures, which may possibly be in- 
tended to represent the tails of serpents. This altar is supposed 
by Monsieur Hamy to be sacred to the god Tlaloc, the Mexican 

Fig. 26—Cron.f of Teotihuacan. 

god of rain. Very little can be said of it except to draw atten- 
tion to the form. Dr. Hamy has described another which is 
called the "cross of the serpents" It has the same general 
shape, but the arms are engraved to represent serpents' heads. 
These altars were found near the pyramids of Teotihuacan, a 
fact that shows they were associated with the sun worship, as 
the pvramids were all devoted to that purpose.* 

3. The second specimen is one which r esembles this, but which 

*See LaCroix De Tiotihiiacan au Musee Du Trocadero, p.. 19. 


IS much more elaborate. It is the idol pillar which was discovered 
in the Plaza Mayor in Mexico in 1790. "It is an immense block 
of bluish-gray porphry about 10 feet hi^h and 6 wide and thick, 
sculptured on front, rear, top and bottom, into a complicated and 
horrible combination of human, animal and ideal forms." Gama 
first expressed the opinion that the front represents the Aztec 
goddess of death, whose duty it was to bear the souls of the dead 
warriors to the house of the sun. The figure on the rear of 
the idol represents, according to Gama, Huitzilopochtli, god of 
war, and husband of the goddess whose emblems are carved 
on the front. The bottom of the monument bears the sculptured 
design which is thought to represent the god of the infernal 
regions, Mictlantecutli, the last of this cheerful trinity — goddess 
of death, god of war and god of hell, three distinct deities 
united in one idol."* This idol is in the shape of a cross, a 
fact which shows that either the cross as known in Christian 
lands as an emblem of peace has been perverted and made to 
represent just the opposite qualities, or it is a symbol which 
grew up under the cruel system of the Aztecs, and was changed 
from the common weather indicator to be a sign of the nature 
gods, who became more and more cruel as they became 
personal. The cruelties which w^ere practiced in con- 
nection with that system have been described. They were 
elaborate and studied, but were as severe as these emblems 
would indicate them to be. The adornments of royalty are 
surmounted by the fangs and claws of the serpent; the hands, 
which should indicate mercy, are placed below the cruel fangs 
of the serpent; in the midst of the cross, which is an emblem 
of life, is the grinning skull, the emblem of death. The whole 
idol, which reminds one of the divinities of the air, is covered 
with emblems of the creatures of the dust; darkness and death 
are symbolized rather than vital life. Plate III. 

3. Another specimen of the cross is the one described by Mr. 
H. H. Bancroft. See Fig. 27. It was one of two statues 
exactly alike which were found on the southern slope of the 
pyramid of Palenque, which contained the temple of the cross 
on its summit. They are ten and a half feet high, of which 
two and a half feet not shown in the cut formed the tenon with 
which they were embedded in the w-all. The figures stand on 
a hieroglyph which perhaps the name of the individual or god 
represented. These statues are remarkable as being the only 
ones found in connection with the Palenque ruins and even 
these are not statues in the "round", since the back is of rough 
stone, and was likely embedded in the wall. The resemblance 
of this figure to some Egyptian statues is remarked by all. 
This statue is evidently in the shape of a cross, though the 
arms of the cross are near the summit and are formed by pro- 
jections of the head-dress. The emblems on the statue are 

♦Bancroft's Native Races, Vol. IV, p. 544. 



peculiar. An object resembling the Nile key is held in one of 
the hands, a medallion which may be taken as a sun symbol is 

held in the other hand; below 
this are objects which may per- 
haps be phallic symbols. 

4. Perhaps the best known spe- 
cimen of the cross is the one 
which is contained on the Pa- 
lenqe tablet (see plate IV,) in 
the temple at Palenque, the 
same temple referred to above, 
the statue having been found 
on the sides of the pyramid 
and the tablet in the shrine 
on the summit. The following 
is the description : "Fixed in 
the wall at the back of the en- 
closure and covering nearly its 
whole surface was the tablet of 
the cross, six feet four inches 
high, and ten feet eight inches 
wide, and formed of three stones. 
The central stone and part of 
the western, bear the sculptured 
figure shown in the cut ; the 
rest of the western and the whole 
of the eastern were hieroglyph- 
ics. The subject doubtless pos- 
sessed religious signification, 
and the temple or adoritorio may 
be considered as a sacred shrine 
or the most Holy Place of 
the ancient Maya priesthood. 
Two men, probably priests, clad 
in the insignia of their office, are 
making an offering to the cross 
or to a bird placed on its summit." 
Of the two priests Stephens 
says: "They are well drawn, 
and in symmetry of proportion 
are perhaps equal to many that 
are carved on the walls of the 
ruined temples of Egypt. Their 
costume is in a stjle different 
to any heretofore given, and the folds would indicate that they 
were of a soft or pliable texture like cotton." Stephens and 
other writers discovered in the object oflered a possible likeness 
to a new-born child. The symbols on this tablet are worthy of 
study. It will be noticed that the cross itself is formed by a 

Fiff. 27— Idol Pillar. 



Standard in the center of which is a feather headed arrow, point 
upward; the arms are formed by the common weapon of war, 
the maxtli, with its crooked head pointing upwards. ¥\^. 28. The 
cross is supported by an animal head which probably represented 
some nature power. The bird reminds one of the thunder- 
bird of the northwest coast, and yet here we are in doubt about 
its significance. There is suspended from its tail a medallion 
which may be regarded as a sun symbol. The head is a circle 
with a dot in the head, which would ordinarily be called a sun 
symbol. The emblems on this cross are mainly the emblems 
of war. In that respect it differs from the one which we have 
already described in which the emblems are more those of 
agriculture, taken from the vegetable world. The significance 
of the emblems in this case, would be that the altar was devoted 
to the war god. On the exterior wall of 
this temple were two stone tablets sculp- 
tured in low relief, representing figures 
or persons elaboi'ately draped and dec- 
orated; one of them wears a leopard 
skin as a cloak. That the cross in this 
case was intended as a symbol of the 
nature powers is evident from the fol- 
lowing fact: "On an adjoining pyramid 
was a temple which contained a tablet, 
in a similar situation to that of the Tem- 
ple of the Cross; but the symbols on the 
tablet were symbols of the sun. This 
gave rise to the name, 'the Temple of 
the Sun'." 

We regard this, then, as another speci- 
men. The symbols in the Temple of 
the Sun are suggestive of sun worship. 
The form of the tablet is similar to that 
of the one in the Temple of the Cross; 
hieroglyphics and priestly figures are 
seen on either side of the central sym- 
bol. The symbol itself is in the shape ^i^.^s.-c-oss of the Tablet. 
of a face with an open mouth, and bulging eye; around 
the face are circles and knots, and symbols of various 
kinds; outside of these are figures which resemble bow-knots. 
This mask is suspended on two staves which cross one another 
terming a letter X. The head of the staves being decorated 
with various symbols; below the staves is a heavy beam which 
also bears a grotesque face at its center, with eyes and lips 
resembling those in the masks above. This beam is supported 
by two bent figures, each of them in the same attitude, having 
eyes and faces, and heads and dresses, resembling one another. 
These figures may be intended to represent the God Tlaloc, 
the god of rain, as they have the eye which is characteristic of 



that divinity. The mask above was evidently intended to 
represent the sun, as it has the face which is everywhere recog- 
nized as a symbol of the sun. The proximity of the two 
pyramids and the two temples, the Temple of the Cross, and 
the Temple ot the Sun, would indicate that they were both 
devoted to the same nature powers, the one to the sun as a 
peaceful divinity and the other to the nature power as a war- 
like divinity 

6. The most interestinj^ specimen of the cross is the one which 

is described by Charnay as found by him 
on a tablet at Lorillard. This tablet con- 
tains two figures, both of them clothed in 
royal apparel, which is covered with sym- 
bols. The larger person has a cross in 
either hand, resembling the one given in 
Fig. 29. The smaller one has also the 
same kind of cross in his kind. Charnay 
says of this tablet: "It occupies the central 
door of the temple, and is 3 feet 9 inches 
long, by 2 feet 9 inches wide. Two fig- 
ures vvith retreating foreheads form the 
main subject, having the usual high head- 
dress of feathers, cape, collar, medallion, 
and maxtli, like the idol; while their boots 
are fastened on the instep with leather 
strings, as similar figures at Palenque. 
They are of different size, and represent 
probably a man and a woman performing 
a religious ceremony; the latter holds in each hand a Latin 
cross, while the other carries but one in the right hand. Rosettes 
form the branches of the crosses, a symbolic bird crowns the 
upper portion, whilst twenty-three katunes are scattered about 
the bas-relief. We think this a symbolic representation of 
Tlaloc, whose chief was a cross, which here consists of palms 
or more probably maize-leaves, intermingled with human fig- 
ures, recalling to the memory of his devotees the god who 
presided over harvests.* 

Fig. 29. 

*See Ancient Cities of the New World by Desire Charnay, pp. 448 and 449. 















The study of symbolism in America always brings up a great 
many enquiries, but none more interesting than one which has 
relation to a contact with Europe in prehistoric times. This is, 
to be sure, a point which is constantly arising in connection with 
all departments of archaeology, but in this connection it is 
especially suggestive. We therefore propose to speak of the 
phallic .symbol as it is found in this country, especially among 
the Mound builders, and to see if this does not prove a pre- 
Columbian contact with other countries. We shall not, how- 
ever, confine ourselves to this one symbol, but shall take it in its 
combination with other symbols, such as the symbol of fire, of 
the sun, of the serpent, and other nature powers. 
^ The description of the dolmens and menhirs of Western 
Europe, which was given a year or two ago by Mr. Thomas Wil- 
son, and now againby Prof. A. S. Pakacrd, has brought up the 
subject afresh. The .same is also the result of reading about 
the remarkable find on the Illinois River. The question is how 
came the custom of making offerings to fire and water, and other 
customs m America? Shall we say that the Druids were here 
during pre-Columbian times, or shall we go farther back and 
ascribe them to an Asiatic source ? 

I. We begin with the cup stones or perforated symbols. It 
forms one of the standing problems for American archcTeologists 
hovy to account for these. These cavities have been studied by 
various parties and have been found in many and widely sep- 
arated countries. It is because of this extensive distribution 
that they have been regarded as important. The argument is 
that the prevalence of them in America proves European con- 
tact in prehistoric times. The argument is a good one, provided 
we assign to the cavities a sacred character, and recognize them 
as the symbols of a widespread faith. This is, however, the 
point. We imagine that if they were not so widely distributed 
the thought of their symbol character would never have arisen. 
The shape of the holes suggests a very simple cause, nothing 
more nor less than the nut-cracking, which was a natural thing 
for the natives of this country. The discovery of so many 
boulders and slabs, filled with these cavities, in Southern Ohio, 
which is a forest region abounding with all kinds of nuts, natur- 
ally suggests that this was the source of the cavities. Perhaps 
we should say that the question is a faux pas. It suggests a 
mystery when no mystery exists. Still, as various authors have 


written upon the subject and European archaeologists, as well as 
American, have regarded them as symbolic, we take up the 
subject in all candor. It is noticeable that the matter-of-fact and 
careful Dr. Charles Rau thought it worth his while to write a 
book about them, and to recount all the places where such holes 
have ever been seen. From this book we learn that they are 
scattered over the continent of America, being very common in 
the Mound-builders' territory. A few specimens are found in 
the region of the Pueblos and on the rocks of California, and 
one specimen has been discovered near Orizaba, Mexico. They 
are also numerous in France, Brittany, Ireland, Switzerland, 
Saxony, Sweden, Scandinavia, though in these latter countries 
they are attended with rings and loops and various grooves and 
channels, as if a special U3e had been made of them and strange 
superstitions had been associated with them, making them sacred 
symbols. We learn, too, that the same works are numerous in 
India, and that in that country, where everything seems to have 
a symbolic character, they are regarded with peculiar veneration, 
and that even phallic worship has been associated with them and 
the symbol of the Mahedeo is always recognized in them. 

Now the point which we make is this, if we must associate so 
great a significance with so simple an object as a cavity, which 
seems to have been used for nut-cracking, then we shall conclude 
that the evidences of contact with older countries during prehis- 
toric times are very common. vVe can imagine the practice to 
have prevailed among a rude people of making avery common 
thing to seem uncommon. The very tools and weapons and 
ornaments which they had might become the embodiment of 
strange superstitions, and even feathers and sticks might be ex- 
pressive. Perhaps there was the addition of a myth or of a 
transmitted custom, and this would account for the unusual 
shapes and combinations by which these cavities are sometimes 
characterized. Still there are figures on the Bald PViar's Rock, 
in Pennsylvania which resemble serpents, the eyes being cup 
cavities or perforations, the heads only being visible. In these 
heads we recognize the jew's-harp pattern, and so we have in 
America, as in India, not only serpent worship but possibly the 
phallic symbol, with all of its conventionalities. We are not 
disposed to minimize the significance of these symbols, and yet we 
should make a distinction between a practical and a symbolic use. 

We find that the symbols are quite widely distributed in 
America, as widely as they arc in Europe, and are sometimes 
found connected with the cremation of the bodies of the dead, as 
they are in foreign lands, and are also associated with altar 
mounds. It is also noticeable that animal figures, human faces 
and forms, and sun symbols, as well as serpent heads, are 
associated with the perforated cavities. Dr. Charles Rau has 
referred to the bird symbol found in the San Pete Valley of 


Utah and the peculiar figures found among the rock paintings in 
Lake County, Oregon, and to the human and animal figures on 
the sculptured boulders in Arizona. These may all have been 
symbolic, and it is possible that a common symbolism has spread 
over this entire continent, either from the east or west, and that 
the connection may be traced even as far away as India. Still 
we think that a distinction should be drawn, and that the Ameri- 
can symbols should be left to themselves until it can be proved 
that they were transmitted from other lands. 

The positions of these cup marks are. to be sure, sometimes 
significant, and the association with various pictures is sugges- 
tive. For instance, there is a picture of a Scandinavian boat 
which reminds us of the Norse sea-kings, and a picture of battle 
axes and a pyramidal sfe/c in the Kivik monument in Scania, 
Sweden. So there are many cup cavities in the roofs of dolmens 
in France, and Prof A. S. Packard has declared that these must 
be symbolic. So there are peculiar figures resembling Runic 
letters on the Bald Friar's Rock in this country. There are re- 
markable coincidences also in the shapes of the rings surround- 
ing the cavities which are foimd in Denmark and Sweden and in 
this countr\-. Some would make them symbols of the sun, and 
would prove a contact with European nations or else a remarka- 
ble parallel development. Some would also consider the Dighton 
Rock as still more conclusive, but this rock Dr. Rau is especially 
skeptical about, taking the position that it was only fabricated 
by ordinary Indians. It seems to make a complication with our 
system if there are resemblances to Old World forms in America. 
Which shall we do? Shall we take the simple facts and be satisfied 
with these, or shall we recognize evidence of foreign contact in 
them ? We have seen these perforations on various stones, but 
have not recognized anything symbolic in either the shapes or 
locations or relative positions of the holes. At onetime we dis- 
covered a small stone slab, burned and smoked, near the altar of 
the celebrated alligator effigy in Ohio, the proximity suggesting 
that it was once on the altar. This was perforated with a cup 
cavity, and may have been designed as a symbol. Still other 
stones, v/ith similar cup-shaped cavities, are found in many 
places. We saw one on the banks of the Ohio at the steamboat 
landing at Maysville, Ky., a place which was not suggestive of 
anything sacred. We also at one time examined the great 
boulder which was taken from the bank of the Ohio near Iron- 
ton, and given by Dr. H. H. Hill to the Natural History Society 
of Cincinnati, and were told that there were one hundred and 
sixteen of these perforations on this single boulder. Similar 
stones have been found in Summit County, O., at Portsmouth and 
Graveport,0.,and at various places in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, 
and the impression is that they were used for nut-cracking. 

The boulder at Cincinnati has certain grooves on its surface 


four or five inches long, which have the appearance of being 
worn by continuous rubbing. But about these we enquire, in 
what respect do they differ from the marks made by arrow sharp- 
ening, which are so common throughout the country. Beau- 
champ has described such works as being common in New York 
and Gen. Thruston in his new book has spoken of others in 
Tennessee, and has given a cut representing the same, but they 
seem very simple things, and we do not see that any symbolism 
can possibly be made out of them. 

Col. Charles Whittlesy thought that the perforations were 
made bv spindles, and that they were evidences of the domestic 
art of spinning and weaving. Others have taken the ground 
that some of them were used for paint cups, especially as pestle 
and mortars have been found in New Mexico with the cup mark 
in the pestle. The explanation is that the paint, which had been 
ground, was placed in the cavity while the process of grinding 
other paint went on. How could symbolic significance come to 
such simple objects? We suggest the following: It is possible 
that the women, who so frequently have left the marks of their 
handiwork, may have used the cavities as signs, giving them the 
hidden significance which would be expressive oi certain sexual 
desires. We are aware that the bird amulets and other objects of 
personal decoration were symbols of maternity with the aborigines. 
The spool ornament was also made symbolic of some more 
spiritual desire, and the axe, especially when made of jade, was 
.symbolic of the immortality of the soul, superstition requiring 
that bits of jade should be placed in the mouth of the dead. It 
is a practice with women in India to take water out of the Ganges 
and pour over the cavities and the channels surrounding them, 
as thev believe maternity will be the result. Another explanation 
is that they were sockets where they placed the end of the fire 
generator, and so came to consider the cavities as sacred to fire 
and having a peculiar significance. If they are, then we should 
say that they form only another link in the chain connecting this 
country with the far east, proving not only that serpent worship, 
but phallic worship and fire worship and sun worship were all 
connected and prevailed on this continent in prehistoric times. 

II. This point has been impressed upon us by recent discoveries. 
We now refer to the discovery which we made in connection 
with the great serpent effigy near Quincy, Illinois. This serpent 
is a massive efifigy, which conforms to the bluff throughout its 
entire length. Its folds are brought out very forcibly by four 
conical burial mounds located near the center of the ridge, mid- 
way between the head and tail of the serpent. The mounds 
contained many bodies, none of them remarkable except the one 
which was cremated at the base of the mound. This was a large 
body. It was lying on its back, and was partially burned. The 
bones, however, were preserved, and what was the most singular 


about the case, on the very center of the body, near the secret 
parts, a skeleton of a serpent was found coiled up, as if there 
was an intention to make it significant. The hands were folded 
over the body just below this skeleton. The body had its feet 
to the east, and its face was turned upward, as if to look toward 
the sun. Thus we have in this cremation scene both the phallic 
symbolic and the serpent effigy, and we have at the same time 
some evidence of sun worship. But there was another feature 
still more remarkable. It was noticed that there were several 
bodies lying parallel with the central one, and that these bodies 
had been burned. The fire-bed was about twelve feet across, and 
contained the remains of at least four bodies, all of them par- 
tialh' burned, all of them cremated and apparently with the faces 
looking upward. There were also skeletons of snakes found 
with the bodies, though the position of the snakes was not closely 
observed. Now the point that we make is, if there was phallic 
worship at all, it was also attended with the eastern custom of 
suttee burning. We learn from the early explorers that at the 
south the fashion was to kill the slaves and wife of a chief when 
he died and to burn the bodies with the body of the chief. If 
this was the case among the southern tribes, it may also have 
been the fashion with this northern tribe. These, we think, are 
important facts While everything in this Quincy find was 
very rude — no relics, no paved altar, no elaborate contrivance 
further than the effigy itself — still the cremation was remarka- 
ble. W^e acknowledge that there are many things in connection 
with all the Mound-builders' burials which are of purely native 
origin. Yet if the phallic symbol is to be seen in one case it is 
also in many, and, what is more, it is also almost always con- 
nected with the serpent symbol. 

It is strange that here in America native superstition seized 
upon the most familiar objects, such as arrow-heads, spear-heads, 
leaf-shaped implements, pieces of mica, or even pebbles and 
round stones, and made of these altars which should be symbolic 
of sun worship; but it is stranger still that native superstition 
should at times give evidence of contact with the more advanced 
fashions and customs of countries which have long been historic 
and that the two systems of symbols should be so near to one 
another. The find at Virginia City, in Illinois, reminds us of 
similar deposits in Ohio. It was a simple altar or artificial heap 
formed out ot leaf-shaped relics, the specimens all having come 
probably from Flint Ridge, but here were used as the resting 
place of the dead. There was, however, a mica cresent on the 
breast and copper spools near the head and stone weapons near 
the hands. Everything about the find showed a very rude state 
of art, and yet showed a strange rmd conventional symbolism. 
The same is true also of the various altar and burial mounds of 
Ohio. Here in one place were altars composed of similar flint 


relics, chipped into leaf-shape, and deposited in two layers, one 
above the other, the entire heap having been used as a platform 
on which immense numbers of relics had been placed, but no 
other relics. In another place, at Mound City, mica plates are 
laid like scales, one against the other, the whole deposit having 
made a remarkable crescent, which might be supposed to have 
glistened with the silvery radiance of the moon. This crescent 
was situated at the bottom of the largest mound in the group 
found at Mound City, and was itself placed above a layer of clay, 
four layers above it composed of sand, the whole being very 
hard and compact. The mound itself was \y feet high and 90 
feet in diameter, and overtopped all the rest. The symbolism 
consisted in the crescent, which was 19 down and 19 feet across 
from horn to horn, the greatest width being about 5 feet. 

Still the two altars — the one formed of leaf-shaped implements 
and the other containing the crescent — were very large, and it 
is supposed that both deposits were equally sacred among this 
mysterious people. In the Ohio mounds were other altars, on 
which many valuable relics had been placed. At the fort on the 
north fork of Paint Creek, where the leaf-shaped flints were 
placed, a large number of pipes had been offered, and among the 
pipes were some in the shape of serpents, the very symbol of the 
Mahedeo being suggested by one of them. This coiled snake 
may indeed have been a mere mythologic object, embodying one 
of the myths which have survived to modern times. Still the 
presence of the serpent effigy with the other features would 
indicate that phallic worship had been observed. The clay was at 
the bottom of these altars, and sand layers above just as clay 
was beneath the flint deposit in Illinois. So there was afire-bed 
of black soil beneath the cremated bodies and white soil above, 
the evidence of a studied design given in both cases. There 
are, to be sure, no two altars alike and no conventional or stere- 
otyped mode of burial in the mounds, yet with the variety the 
uniformity is apparent, the uniformity being always confined to 
the symbol, but the diversity coming out in the mode of burial 
and the articles deposited. This is also one of the strange fea- 
tures of the Mound-builders' religion. They seem to have been 
saturated with superstition. It was almost childish in its sim- 
plicity, for it seized upon the most trifling things to express 
itself; it was also held under the control of a fi.xed and formal 
symbolism, which constantly reminds one of foreign customs. 
Stately ceremonies resembling those of Druidic worship were 
associated with the trifling details of a savage people. The in- 
ference is that human sacrifices were made, and that burials of 
an extraordinary character were practiced in certain cases, but 
in other cases the commonest things seem to have been laid 
away as if with all the care of the most sacred treasure. We 
are puzzled by these deposits, and yet we recognize a strange 


symbolism in them all. The great serpent in Ohio is only such 
an effigy as perhaps any superstitious savage might possibly de- 
vise; nothing conventional or foreign about its shape, but when 
we come to the oval and the altar in the oval, we are at once 
reminded of the phallic symbol and the offering to the fire divin- 
ity of the east. So, too, the serpent effigy in Illinois seems like 
a very rude semblance of a massive snake. Its shape conforms 
to the bluff in every part. It seems only an effigy, but when we 
compare its double bend to the curve of the Hindu fire generator 
and to count the number four in the mounds on its summit, and 
see the contents as they are, it seems as if the same latent sym- 
bolism was strangely present, and so it is everywhere. Superstition 
degenerated or advanced, one of the two. Symbolism, too, was 
either gradually lost, being merged into the totem system of the 
hunter races, or it grew up under the same races and became a 
complicated system, very like the sun symbols of other countries. 
The resemblance may have been accidental, but the impression 
is growing that the symbolism was not a native growth, but was 
introduced from some other land. 

III. It is to be remembered that cremation was in Europe dis- 
tinctive of the bronze age, and was comparatively unknown in the 
neolithic age. We are also to remember that the phallic symbol 
was very common during that age, so common that many think 
it was introduced into the north of Europe by the Phoenicians, 
who took long voyages for the sake of finding tin. The Druids 
also are supposed to have cremated bodies, and to them have 
been ascribed the horse-shoe symbols which are still recognized 
in those celebrated temples formed from standing stones. With 
the Druids, fire worship, sun worship, serpent worship and phal- 
lic worship formed a complicated system, which stamped itself 
upon the megalithic monuments of the land. The discovery of 
these various forms of superstition in the American continent 
suggests to us the possibility of a transmission of the same com- 
plicated cultus to the western coasts of the great sea. This is 
an important fact. Was it owing to the extension of the Phce 
nician voyages or to the zeal of Druidic priests that these things 
were introduced? The contact seemed to ha\'e produced a mar- 
vellous effect. It was not a decline from the bronze age which 
we see in these familiar symbols, but the effect of contact with 
European voyagers in pre-Columbian times, pre-Columbian dis- 
covery in fact. The conclusion is startling, but this is the only 
way that we can account for the marvellous resemblances. Cer- 
tainly no ordinary nature worship could produce a cultus which 
would combine all the elements of the eastern faiths — Druidic, 
Phoenician, Hittite, all in one, nor could the law of growth ac- 
count for the details as they are seen. Parallel development 
might indeed result in the prevalence of animal worship among 
the hunter races, of sun worship among the agricultural races. 


possibly of serpent worship; but when all of these are combined 
and made expressive of a strange esoteric system, with the mys- 
tic significance of the sun symbol as the source of life, we are 
led to say that something else must be brought in to account for 
the phenomena. Phallic worship is not a simple cult which 
might be introduced anywhere, nor is it to be expected that the 
worship of fire, or of the sun, or the serpent, would all come from 
natural causes. There might be a decline from a previous ad- 
vanced condition. The bronze age might sink back into the stone 
age. The absence of tin might result in the substitution of cop- 
per for the bronze, and the change go on until savage hunters are 
seen carrying about with them .strange reminders of their pre- 
vious condition; but we cannot see how the process of growth 
could bring together on the American tree the varied fruit of the 
eastern climes or place its many symbols in these western lands. 
The custom of keeping alive the sacred fire was common among 
the southern tribes. With them the sun was the great divinity. 
Idolatry, of a primitive kind, also prevailed among them. They 
built pyramids of earth, and placed their idols in niches on the 
sides of those pyramids, with their faces towards the four points 
of the sky. They kept their dead in sacred charnel houses, and 
placed images near by to watch the remains or to receive the 
spirits as they returned, reminding us of Egyptian customs. 

The Mound-builder's cult was as strange as this. Here we 
see the pipes offered to the sun, but the pipes are covered with 
animal figures, suggestive of animal worship or totemism. Here 
also we see the serpent effigy, everything about it expressive of 
a still higher cult, namely, the worship of fire or the sun. Here 
we see the sun circle and the crescent, showing that sun worship 
was very prevalent. Here we see the phallic symbol, a marvel- 
lous cult, holding its sway over a united people. Southern Ohio 
being its chief seat of power. Everything of value which was 
ever offered to the sun was subject to the action of the sacred 
flame. Here we see the horse-shoe symbol in the mounds and 
the phallic symbol in the serpent pipes. And with all this com- 
plicated symbolism we learn that the bodies were cremated 
exactly as they were on Druidic altars, though the flames are 
smoothered beneath the layers of the sacred soil. Surely it is 
mysterious. Could the Mound-builders have invented all this, 
and established their system over so great a territory, brought 
so many strange conceptions into their worship, unless they 
had received from some source a cult which was not indigenous 
to the continent. It is said by some that they were nothing 
more and nothing less than the ancestors of the present race of 
Indians, but by others that they were gifted with great intelli- 
gence; but whichever way we look at them, it does seem that 
they could not have had such a marvellous symbolism unless 
there had been among them some one horn another continent. 


IV, There was in all parts of the American Continent, as 
well as in the lands of the East, a union of fire and phallic 
worship. How the two came to be associated together is a 
mystery, but it was perhaps owing to the superstition in refer- 
ence to the occult princip e of life, which is hidden in fire and 
in the phallus. In the East the Hindu belief was that the fire 
generator was propelled by the snake, which constituted the 
rope, and the two classes of divinities pulled the rope. The 
result was that the fluid of life was churned out of the sea and 
made great convulsions. 

We have in the preceding pages spoken of phoUic symbols 
which are common on this continent, and of their resemblance 
to those found in the far East. Among these are the cups 
or circular depressions which are so often seen on the rocks, a 
specimen of which may be seen in the cut. These cup-stones 
are generally supposed to have been used as fire generators, 
though some have regarded them merely as depressions 
caused by nut cracking. The fact, however, that similar cup- 
stones are found scattered over Europe and Asia, and are used 
by persons in India in connection with religious ceremonies, 
has led many to believe that they are fire symbols. 

There was another symbol which was as wide-spread as this. 
It is in reality the hooked cross, or the suastika, called by some 
the "Gammadion " from its resemblance to the Greek letter 
(jama. The " hooked cross " is, however, the most expressive 
name, for it suggests the shape of the symbol, and yet does not 
explain its use. Mr. Schliemann discovered many such sym- 
bols in Troy, and in his work on "Troja" he refers to the 
opinions of Mr. E. Burnouf and Mr. R. P. Gregg. The first of 
these held to the theory that it represented the two pieces of 
wood, which were laid crosswise upon one another before the 
sacrificial altars, in order to produce the sacred fire; the ends 
of which were bent around at right angles and fastened by 
means of four nails, so that the framework might not be 
moved. Mr. Gregg held to the opinion that the symbol came 
to mean the god of the sky. Mr. A. H. Sayce thinks that the 
Trojan suastika was derived from the Hittites, but that it 
originated in the far East. 

Mr. Thomas Wilson, now deceased, wrote extensively upon 
the subject, and says the suastika is one of the symbolic marks 
of the Chinese, and quotes the opinion of many other writers. 
Count de Alviella says the suastika is in use among the 
Buddhists of Thibet. Mr. W. Crook says the mystical emblem 
of the suastika appears to represent the sun in his journey 
through the heavens, and is common among the Hindus. It 
is no less known to the Brahmans than to the Buddhists. 

The Jains make the sign of the suastika as frequently as the 
Catholics make the sign of the cross. The suastika is found 
on the pottery of the Bronze Age in Asia Minor. It is also 
found among the Lake Dwellings of the Bronze Age of 



Switzerland; on the spear-heads of Germany; on the ancient 
coins of Gaza, Palestine; on the ancient Hindu coins; and on 
the gold ornaments of Denmark. 

The distribution of this symbol throughout the continent of 
America, is a subject which Mr. Thomas Wilson treats exten- 
sively. He shows that it is found upon the shell gorgets of 
Tennessee; on the copper plates of Ohio; and on the bead belts 
of the Iroquois and Sac Indians. A modified form is found in 
the sand-paintings of the Navajos. Mr. Wilson refers to the 
discovery of an engraved shell in the Toco Mound of Tennes- 
see, on which was an image resembling the statue of Buddha, 
and thinks the symbol was introduced by Buddhists. Mr. VV. 
H. Moorehead found many specimens of copper ornaments in 
the Hopewell Mounds. Among them were stencil ornaments 


of thin copper, cut in the shape of the clover leaf and the fish, 
giving the idea that they were introduced by the missionaries 
from Europe, and became mingled with those common among 
the aborigines; five suastil^a crosses; along mass of copper 
covered with wood; eighteen single copper rings-; a number of 
double copper rings; ten circular copper rings, with holes in the 
center; an ornament in the shape of a St. Andrews cross; cop- 
per plates; copper hatchets; pearl beads; a copper eagle; 
spool-shaped objects; one stool of copper; a human skull with 
horns; a copper plate, placed on the breast of the skeleton; 
and an altar. This find is important, and does not decide the 
question as to the transmission of the suastika before the time 
of the Discovery. It would seem, however, that on general 

•The cut represents a rock found in Southern Ohio, which \% now in the Museum in Cincin. 
nati, Ohio. 


principles it is easier to borrow such symbols than to invent 

It should be said here, that the fire symbol, the phallic sym- 
bol, the horseshoe, the looped square, the serpent, and the cross 
were closely associated in American symbolism. The serpent 
was divided into four parts, the number four reminding us of 
the four parts of the heavens. It is supposed that the serpent 
symbolized the water and cloud, and sometimes the lightning. 
The phallic symbol signified the life principle. 

The significance of the hooked cross in America is difficult 
to decide upon, for it is found in a great variety of materials; 
sometimes on the shell gorgets, sometimes on copper plates, 
sometimes cut into the rocks, and moulded into pieces of pot- 


tery. Such is the case among the mounds. It is here asso- 
ciated with the circle, the square, the common cross, the coiled 
serpent, and many other symbols. In fact there is scarcely any 
ordinary symbol which is not found in some form, in some ma- 
terial among the mounds. This shows that there was an ex- 
tensive system of symbolism which had either been introduced 
among the Mound-Builders, or had been invented by them. 
The description of these symbols is given in the book on the 

In connection with the subject of the hooked cross as a fire 
symbol, it may be well to consider the varioiis ceremonies 
which were connected with the fire among the aborigines. 
Dr. Washington Matthews has described a ceremony which 
prevailed among the Navajos. The ceremony took place after 

•See " The Mound-Buildeis; Their Works and Relics," pp. 51-54, 301-304. 


nightfall, in the midst of an open circle. It appears that those 
who took part in it, had on only their breech-cloth and their 
moccasins, and were daubed with white earth until they seemed 
a group of living marbles. As they advanced in single file 
and moved around the fire, they threw their bodies into divers 
attitudes: now they faced the east; now the south, west, and 
north — bearing aloft their slender wands, tipped with eagle 
down. Their course around the fire was to the left, by way of 
the south. When they had circled the fire twice they began to 
thrust their wands towards it and throw themselves back, with 
the head to the fire, as though to thrust the wand into the 
flames. When they succeeded in lighting it, they would rush 
out of the corral. 

There were other ceremonies among the Navajos, in which 
they raced with firebrands in their hands, the brands throwing 
out long brilliant flames over the hands and arms of the dancers; 
they strike one another with the flaming wand, and sometimes 
catch ^ne another and bathe them in flame. The significance 
of this ceremony is unknown, but seems to be very impressive. 
The most interesting ceremony of the Navajos was con- 
nected with the suastika, or hooked cross, which was used, not 
so much as a symbol of fire, as a symbol of life. The cross 
was a part of the sand-paintings and represented the common 
cross, but in different colors. On the ends of the cross, the 
divine forms stood, making the arms of the cross lie with their 
ends extended one to each of the four cardinal points. On the 
cross are figures which wear around their loins skirts of red 
sunlight adorned with sunbeams. They have ear pen.^ants, 
bracelets, armlets of blue and red turquoise and coral, the em- 
blematic jewels of the Navajos; the four arms and legs are 
black, showing in each a zigzag mass representing lightnu-^ on 
the surface of the black rain cloud. Each bears attached by 
a string to his right arm, a basket and a rattle, painted to sym- 
bolize the rain cloud and the lightning. Beside each one is a 
highly conventionalized picture of a plant, which has the same 
color as the god. The body of the eastern god is white, so is 
the stalk of the corn on the left; the body of the southern god 
is blue, so is the beanstalk beside him; the body of the western 
god is yellow, so is the pumpkin vine beside him; the body of 
the north god is black, so is the tobacco plant by his side. 
Each of the four sacred plants is represented as growing from 
five white roots in the central waters and spreading outwards. 
The gods form one cross, which is directed to the four cardinal 
points; the plants form another cross, but all have a comrnon 
center. On the head of each god is an eagle plume, all point- 
ing in one direction. The gods are represented with beautiful 
embroidered pouches, symbolizing the rainbow, or rainbow 
deity; one end of which is the body below the waist, having 
legs and waist and feet and skirt, at the other end head and 
neck and arms, This is the rainbow goddess, which resembles 


the Iris of the Greeks. In the east, where the picture is not 
enclosed, are two birds, standing with wings outstretched 
facing one another. The blue bird, the herald of the morning, 
has the color of the south and the upper regions; he is sacred 
and his feathers are plume-sticks. These blue birds stand 
guard at the door of the house wherein the gods dwell. 

The colors, among the Navajos, are sacred to the different 
points of the compass. The east is white; the south, blue; the 


west, yellow; and the north, black. The upper world is blue, 
and the lower world, white and black in spots. 

This cross, formed by the bodies of the goddesses standing 
on the rafts, with the plants standing on the side, the rambow 
colors with the symbols of the sky in their hands, shows the 
love for beauty which prevailed among this mountain people, 
and at the same time shows the symbol of the cross. 

There is no mythology more beautiful than that of the 
Navajos, and it seems to have been original with them. Still 
we are to notice that the humanized rainbow resembles that 
which was common among the Egyptians and signified about 
the same thing. This resemblance leads us to the subject of 
the transmission of symbols. This has been treated by Goblet 


de Alviella, who is regarded as the best authority upon the 
subject. He, however, confined his studies mainly to the sym- 
bols found in Eastern lands, and only refers briefly to those 
scattered over this continent. He maintains that an esoteric 
system prevailed throughout the world, but was better under- 
stood by the priests and magicians than by the common peo- 
ple, but that there was so much secrecy about it, that it was 
difficult to decide whether it was borrowed from others, or in- 
vented independently. 

Jt is acknowledged by all that there are many symbols in 
America which so strongly resemble those found in Europe 
and in Asia, as to suggest that they came from some common 
center and were gradually transmitted from one continent to 
another. Among these symbols, the most common and wide- 
spread are those which are connected with the worship of the 
elements, and especially with the worship of fire. As proof of 
this, we have only to refer to the fact that the cup stones, 
as well as the suastika, arc very common in this country 
and in Asia, and the explanation which has been given, that 
they were used for generating fire, is the most plausible one. 

It is to be noticed that the custom of making a new fire was 
common among the natives of America. Prescott has described 
that which occurred among the Mexicans. He says: 

"Among the Aztecs it was at the end of fifty years that the 
new fire was created, instead of every year as among the Mus- 
kogees. The ceremony took place upon the summit of a 
mountain, about two leagues distant from the city. A proces- 
sion of priests moved toward this mountain, taking with them 
a captive taken in war and the apparatus for kindling the new 
fire. On reaching the summit of a mountain, the procession 
paused till midnight; then as the constellation of the Pleiades 
reached the zenith, and while the people waited in great ^>us- 
pense.'the new fire was kindled by the friction of the fire drill 
placed on the breast of the victim. The flame was then com- 
municated to the funeral pile on which the body of the captive 
was thrown. As the light streamed up to heaven shouts burst 
from the countless multitudes which covered the hills, terraces, 
temples, and housetops. Couriers with torches lighted bore 
them over every part of the country, and the cheering element 
was soon brightened on many a hearthstone within the circuit 
of many a league." 

Mr. Thomas Wilson has given a map showing the distribu- 
tion of the suastika throughout Asia, America, and Europe. 
This map is Very suggestive, for it shows that the symbol 
might have been introduced into America from either side — 
from Asia or from Europe. If from Asia, it seems probable 
that it was in prehistoric times; if, on .the other hand, it was 
introduced from Europe, it might have been in historic times. 

There is one point to be considered in connection with this 
theory of the transmission of such symbols as the hooked cros? 


or suastika and the winged figure. If they were transmitted 
from Europe they did not carry with them those symbols which 
were quite common in mediaeval times, and so must have been 
transmitted before that date. There were fire symbols in 
Europe before mediaeval times, but the basilisk and the cocka- 
trice, and other symbols, became common at a later time. 

The dragon, or winged serpent, has performed a part in 
many creeds, and the dragon slayer has been the hero of count- 
less legends. These legend,s vary with climate and country 
and the development of the people with whom it is found. In 
Egypt the dragon was called Typhon; in Greece, Pytho; in 
India, Kalli Naga, the "vanishment of Vishnu"; in Anglo-Saxon 
chronicles he is called Draco, " the fire drake," "the denyer of 


God," "the unsleeping, poisoned fanged monster," "the terri- 
ble enemy of man, full of subtility and power." 

The story of St. George and the dragon is a common one, 
which has come down to us through the ages, but it is a sur- 
vival of hundreds of earlier ones. An old legend of the 
founding of Thebes by Cadmus, is as follows: "Arriving on the 
site of the future city, he proposed to make a sacrifice to the 
protecting goddess Athene, but on sending his men to a dis- 
tant fountain for water, they were attacked by a dragon. 
Cadmus therefore went himself, and slew the monster and, at 
the command of Athene, sowed its teeth on the ground, from 
which immediately sprang a host of armed giants. These on 
the instant all turned their arms against each other, with such 
fury that they were all presently slain, save five. Cadmus in- 
voked the aid of these giants in the building of the new city, 
and from these five the noblest families of Thebes hereafter 
traced their lineage." The meaning of this story and the 


origin of the dragon itself, are difficult to understand. It is 
supposed, however, that they originally represented some 
operation of nature. "The dragon wing of night overspreads 
the earth," is an expression which shows the effect of imagina- 
tion when aroused by the story of such monsters. 

Pliny, the elder, gathered these stories into a book, which 
shows their prevalence before his day; but they continued to 
be told even through the Middle Ages. Among these stories, 
were others of the unicorn, and of the cockatrice. The uni- 
corn, alive or dead, seems to have eluded observation in a 
wonderful way, and the men of science have been left to 
abstract their facts from the slightest hints. One of the 
mediaeval writers adopted the plan of compiling statements in 
reference to the unicorn, just as they came to hand. Pliny 
states that it is a fierce and terrible creature. Those which 
Graceas de Herto described about the Cape of Good Hope, 
were beheld with heads like horses. Those which Vartomanus 
beheld, he described as a huge lizard. 

The cockatrice was another creature which was often de- 
scribed. It is called the king of serpents, because of its 
majestic pace, for it does not creep like other serpents but 
goes half upright, from which cause all other serpents avoid 
him, and it seems that nature designed him for preeminence 
from the crown or cornet on his head. It is said to be half a 
foot in length, the hinder part like a serpent, the fore part like 
a cock. These monsters are supposed to be found in Africa 
and some other parts of the world. Guildaumcs, a Norman 
priest, who wrote a book in the Middle Ages, which is a full 
description of these monsters, and especially of the cockatrice, 
says their poison is so strong that there is no cure for it, and 
one is in such a degree affected by its presence that no creature 
can live near it. It kills not only by Its touch, but even the 
sight of the cockatrice is death, and all other serpents are afraid 
of the sight and hissing of a cockatrice. The heraldic cocka- 
trice is represented as having the head and legs of a cock, a 
scaley body of a serpent, and the wings of a dragon, but a 
crowned head. The basilisk was the king of serpents. It is 
described as a huge lizard, but in later times it became a 
crested serpent. Like the cockatrice, the glance of its eye was 
death. Pliny says, "We come now to the basilisk, which all 
other serpents flee fiom and are afraid of; albeit he kiileth 
them with his very breath and the smell that passeth from 
him, and if he do set his eye on a man, it is enough to take 
away his life." 

V. Associated with the fire drill was a symbol which in the 
East was called the Sacred Grove. It consisted of an upright 
shaft, with branches extending to either side and a vine run- 
ning over the shaft at the end of the branches. At the end of 
the branches were pine cones. These symbols are common in 
the East. They are seen on the facades of palaces in Babylonia 


and are significant. We call them human tree figures. They 
remind us of the so-called groves or idols of Asherah, which 
were condemned in the Scriptures as the symbols of a degraded 
worship. We do not know that fire worship was thus perverted 
to a base system in America, but these figures are worthy of 
study m this connection. 

VI. We now consider the contrast between the fire worship in 
America and in Asia, ascribing the latter mainly to an historic 
source and the former to a prehistoric source — one aboriginal 
and the other traditional. Here the archaeology of the East 
will assist us. In Egypt the work of creation was ascribed to 
the gods ot fire, though the element of moisture came in. 
Ptah, an appropriate name for the god of fire, was a "creator," 
"sculptor;" Sachet denotes "kindhng fire;" Pechet isthe"de- 
vourer," and Bes is the " ascending flame." The Semitic gods 
of fire and light contend: The consuming and destroying sun 
god, contends with darkness as, in Egypt, Osiris does with Set. 
Among the Akkadians fire played an important part, though 
their worship consisted of magic. The Akkadians are supposed 
to be the same as the Turanians, which is a term used to desig- 
nate the so-called Ural Altaic, of which the Mongols, Mag- 
yars, Finns, Samoyedes are the chief branches. The religion 
of the Finns embodied much of the system which belonged to 
the Turanians; the Klavala is the book which contains the epic 
poems of the Finns, the subject of which is simply the contest 
of the nature powers personified. The three great heroes of 
the Klavala are the ancient spirits of Heaven, fire and earth, 
and correspond lo Odin, Loki and Humir, the German triad 
of gods. 

The Persian religion was one in which there was a great de- 
velopment of the worship ot fire and the drink of immortality. 
The Persians had a peculiar superstition about the disposal of 
the body. They supposed it could not be burned, because that 
would corrupt the fire; they could not bury it, because that 
would corrupt the earth; it could not be left exposed, that 
would corrupt the air; it could not be put into the water, for 
that would corrupt the water; it was therefore put n a tower 
so that it could be devoured by birds. The Wends, however, 
on the contrary, had three methods of disposing of the body: 
burial that carried the soul to the under world; burn'ng, which 
bore it in smoke to the heavens; burial in a boat, which tra s- 
ported it to the island of the sun. Among the Scandinavians, 
Loki was the God of fire; he was not to be trusted; while he 
was benificent, he was treacherous. Lenormant in his Chal- 
dean Magic has given the same history. He says the Chaldaic 
Babylonians, ' ho were devoted to astronomy, read in the sidt real 
and planetary system a revelation of the divine being. First was 
Seij Cronos, mysterious source of all things; Anu, primordial 
chaos, god of time; //ea, god of water, the spirit that brooded 


over the water; Bel, the demiurge; next, the gods of the five 
planets — ^4^ar, Saturn; Afa?'duk, Jup'ittr; JVerg-a I, Mars; Isiar, 
Venus; JVedo, Mercury. 

The demons were seven phantoms in flame, who were the 
counterparts to the seven gods of the planets, including the sun 
and moon. In Anu was recognized the ideal of a cosmic or 
uranic triad, heaven and earth and fire. The Chaldeans had 
the opinion that the shape of the earth was a boat turned up- 
side down, a coracle; the interior cavity was the abyss where 
the dead found a home. Above the earth extended the sky, 
spangled with stars, the central point was the nadir ; here was 
the mountain of the East with its four spurs or peaks, and the 
central point. Between the earth and heavens was the zone of the 
atmosphere where the winds blow and the storms rage. Fire 
worship was at first common to both the Turanians and Aryans 
of ancient origin; fire was the most active of all the gods; man 
could hold direct communication with him by means of sacred 
rites and by lighting the sacrificial flame. Under the name 
Izdubhar, " man of fire," he became one of the heroes of epic 
history; he was called the supreme pontiff of the earth; he was 
recognized in the flame of the domestic hearth and protected 
the house from evil influences, and was called the " god of the 
House." In his natural reality, he was superior to the sun; in 
his historical, he was the survivor of the deluge; in his office, 
he was the divinity of the hearth; the insignia of his office was 
a reed, which took the place of a wand. The rush was used as 
the fire generator; hence he was called the god of the rushes. 

Here, then, we have the fire worship carried to a high stage 
of personification. Taken in connection with the cult as it ex- 
isted in America, we have the entire history. We may trace it 
through all its stages. 



One of the mysterious things about American archaeology 
and mythology is that they contain so many reminders of the 
events which belonged to the early days in historic countries, 
some of which have been transmitted through Scripure. We 
are constantly coming upon these in whatever region or prov- 
ince we may be, whether in the territory of the Mound-builders, 
Cliff-dwellers, Pueblos, wild hunters of the north, the fishermen 
of the northwest coast, the agriculturists of the south, the semi- 
civilized people of the interior, or the civilized races of Mexico, 
Central America and Peru. Among all these we find not only 
symbols, but traditions and myths which strikingly resemble 
those of the east. This makes the department of symbolism 
interesting and important, though there is no branch of study 
which does not, in this respect, become suggestive. If we take 
up the solar cult, the moon cult, the water cult, the fire cult, 
serpent worship, animal worship, totemism, animism, fetichism, 
going from the most elaborate to the most primitive, we find 
reminders of familiar events which have occurred elsewhere, and 
can not resist the impression that, even in the^least developed or 
most primitive of these systems, there are traces of something 
that lies back of them which does not belong to them and can 
not be ascribed to any indigenous or native origin. The clue 
may be misleading and we may take too much for granted, but 
we certainly ought not to ignore its existence or refuse to admit 
the evidence when presented. 

Dr. C. P. Tiele said, several years ago : " The question of the 
relation which the religions of savages stand to the great his- 
toric families of religions has just been opened." But very 
great progress has been made since that time, and we ought 
to be able to trace, before long, not only the relations, but 
also the channels through which these reminders have come. 
Over a large extent of Asia and Europe, the Aryans were pre- 
ceded by Turanian people. Such is the evidence of history. 
Archaeologists have, to be sm-e, been thinking of late that there 
were no Aryans or Turanians, but, on the contrary, that all 
classes descended from the paleolithic people of Europe. Some 
also claim that imigration to America took place during' the latter 
part of that age, and that settlement occurred some time in the 
early part of the neolithic age. But we can not do away with 
the distinction which Hnguists recognize, nor can we destroy 
the evidence which is presented to the mythologist that there is 


a filtering of the events and traditions of historic countries 
through the tokens and myths of prehistoric America, and we 
cannot certainly allow a speculation to destroy or do away vvith 
that which is so plain. Too many discoveries have been made 
in Egypt, Assyria and the far East for us to ignore the record of 
creation, the deluge, and other events as they are recorded in 
Scripture and confirmed by the monuments and tablets. 

In fact, it seems to us to be time that the historic and prehis- 
toric arch^ologists should be working together instead of apart, 
and the department of Biblical archaeology, which has been 
making so great advance, should be recognized as a coadjutor 
in the field instead of an enemy. We do not lessen the impor- 
tance of nature worship when we deny that the tradition of 
the creation was the result ot personification, or that of the flood 
the result of local freshets, for there is a strange mingling of 
the local and the universal, of the modern and the ancient, and 
it is very difficult to separate them without destroying the 
whole fabric. 

The water cult in America seems to have come from foreign 
countries ; at least that part of it which perpetuated the tradition 
of the flood must have done so, for in this the symbols are too 
suggestive to be explained in any other way. 

The knowledge of the Pleiades, the traditions of the first man, 
the conception of the dragon, the worship of the serpent, the 
prevalence of the phallic symbol, the association of the water 
cuh, fire cult, moon cuh and the solar cult, are all arguments 
for the transmission of the tradition of the flood from foreign 
countries, even if the cult is found in a very elernentary and 
primitive condition. Take the following cosmogonic legend of 
Cannes by Berosus: "According to extracts from the Grecian 
historian of Chaldea, he had a body of a fish entire, but under- 
neath his fish's head there was a second human head, while 
human feet appeared under his tail, and he possessed a human 
voice. This monster spent the whole day amongst men with- 
out taking any food, while he taught them letters, science, and 
the principles of every art, the rules of the foundations of towns, 
the building of temples, the measurements and boundaries of 
lands, seed time and harvest ; in short, all that could advance 
civilization, so that nothing new has been invented since that 
period. Then at sunset this great Cannes regained the sea and 
passed the night in the vast region of waves, for he was am- 
phibious." This description of Cannes is interesting when 
studied in connection with the following picture of the Zuni 
water-snake, which was found by Lieut. Whipple on the rocks 
in Arizona. See Fig. i. 

It was observed by the explorers near the Rocky Dell Creek. 
The interpretation of it as given by a Pueblo Indian was that 
it represented the great water snake created by Montezuma, to 
give rain ; they describe the snake as of great length, slowly 


gliding upon the water. The great feathered serpent of the 
Zuni was supposed to live in the water and to guard the springs. 
The celebrated Aztec spring was its favorite haunt. Vessels 
taken from this fountain had upon them crescents, serpents, 
frogs, tadpoles and other water animals. Lieut. Whipple says: 
"I do not know that upon this continent any animal has been 
found similar to it; it would seem to be of Eastern origin." 
There is a tradition among the Zuni of a great flood; this 
flood came from the west and rushed down the great canon and 
filled it with water; a great many of the people fled to the top 
of the mesa and were saved from the waters; the rest perished — 
the Navajos, Apaches and wild beasts — in the sea of waters, ex- 
cept such as found safety there. The Zuni built a pueblo upon 
the lofty eminence, and waited the subsidence of the waters. 
Time passed and the waves still surrounded their refuge. A 
sacrifice was devised to appease the water divinity. The son 
of a chief and a beautiful virgin were the chosen offerings. As 
they were let down from the cliff into the deep, the waters 
rolled back, leaving the young man and maid statues of stone. 

Fig. 1.— Water Snake of the Zunis. 

An isolated rock is pointed out to the travelers as 
containing upon its summit the statues of the two 
persons. The high priest or governor of the 
Pueblo has it his especial duty to officiate before 
the water deities. Among the wild tribes — the 
Algonquins, Iroquois, and Dakotas — there are various myths 
as to how the earth was recreated after the deluge of waters. 
There are variations as to this myth, but generally Manobozho 
is the divinity who personates Noah. He survives the flood, 
floats above the water in his canoe; he sends different animals 
down into the water to bring up the earth. The muskrat suc- 
ceeds. Manobozho takes the mud from the claws, sprinkles it 
UDon the water, causes it to grow until it becomes a great 
island; he sprinkles small lumps on the island, and they become 
mountains; he sticks arrows into the ground and they become 
men and women.* 

This story has its analogies among the Sioux, Athabascans, 
Iroquois, Cherokees and various tribes of British Columbia and 
California. The story varies according to locality. Among 
the Algonquins he is Michabo, the giant rabbit, but he is a god 

♦See American Journal of Folk Lore, Sept. '91, article by A. Chamberlain, which 
gives the variations of this tradition. Page 15, Vol. lY., article by Dr. F. Boas. 


of wind, storm and rain; he is said to have scooped out the ba- 
sins of the lakes. Among the Ojibways a mighty serpent began 
to flood the land, but Michabo destroyed him with his dart. 
Among the Cherokees the animals were above, nothing was 
below but a wide expanse of water; but the water beetle and 
the water spider dove'to the bottom and brought up the mud. 
Among the Yocusts of California the earth was covered with 
water; there existed a hawk, crow, duck, but the duck brought 
up his beak full of mud. Among the Chinooks and Bilqulas it 
was the muskrat, but the buzzard flapped his wings and made 
the mountains. 

The description given by Catlin of the religious ceremonies 
which prevailed among the Mandans before and after the in- 
itiation of their young men as warriors, is worthy of notice. 
The Mandan religious ceremony commences not on a par- 
ticular day of the year, but at a particular season, which is 
designated by the full expansion of the willow leaves ; for ac- 
cording to their tradition the "twig the bird brought home was 
a willowbough and had full-grown leaves on it." The bird to 
which they allude is the mourning or turtle dove, and being as 
they call it a medicine bird, it is not to be destroyed or harmed 
by any one, and even their dogs are instructed not to do it in- 
jury. During the ceremony a figure is seen approaching ; the 
body of this strange personage, which was chiefly naked, was 
painted white, resembling at a little distance a white man ; he 
wore a robe of four white wolf skins, falling from his shoulders, 
on his head a splendid head-dress of two raven's skins; in his 
left hand a pipe was cautiously carried as it of great impor- 
tance. After passing the chiefs and braves, he approached the 
medicine or mystery lodge, which he had the means of opening 
and which had been religiously closed during the year. While 
preparations were making in the medicine lodge Nu-mohk- 
muck-a-nah, "the first or only man," traveled through the village, 
stopping in front of every man's lodge and crying until the owner 
came out and asked who he was and what was the matter. 
To which he replied by relating the sad catastrophe which had 
happened on the earth's surface by the overflowing of waters, 
saying that he was the only person saved from the universal 
calamity, that he landed his big canoe on a high mountain in 
the west, where he now resides ; that he has come to open the 
medicine lodge which must needs receive a present of some 
edged tool from the owner of every wigwam, that it may be 
sacrificed to the water ; for he says, " if this is not done there 
will be another flood and no one will be saved, as it was with 
such tools that the big canoe was made." Having visited every 
lodge and wigwam during the day and having received such a 
present at each, he returned at evening and deposited them in 
the medicine lodge, where they remained until the afternoon of 
the last day of the ceremony, when they were thrown into the 


river in a deep place from a bank thirty feet high, and in the 
presence of the whole village, from whence they can never be 
recovered. These were undoubtedly sacrificed to the Spirit ot 
the Water. 

Catlin, with this description of the ceremony of the big 
canoe, the medicine man, the gathering of the knives, brings in 
a few remarks in reference to the symbols. He says the num- 
ber four seemed to be sacred; the ceremony lasted four days; 
there were four medicine men who searched the lour parts of 
the ramp or village; there were four groups of dancers; four 
sacks of water, resembling large tortoises, were placed on the 
floor; four men were selected to cleanse out the lodge; four car- 
dinal points were symbolized; four skewers were placed as in- 
struments of torture in the arms and legs of the warriors; four 
sacrifices were made; four colors; and narrates that there were 
four tortoises which supported the earth; they carried dirt on 
their back, though he brings in the idea of forty days, as the 
bufTalo dance was repeated four times, eight times, twelve times, 
sixteen times in the successive days.* 

Among the civilized races the tradition of the flood is com- 
mon, and it is there associated with the divinity of rain, and with 
the water cult as it is in the uncivilized. Here, however, we 
find some peculiarities not elsewhere known. A white God is 
the culture hero who answers to the Noah of the Bible, but 
his history is something like that of the Messiah. The Fair God 
yields to his enemy Texxatlipoca, who is a very Loki, whose 
symbol is the serpent He escapes to the pyramid of Cholula, in 
connection with which there is still a tradition of the flood; he 
withdraws from this and takes his canoe made of serpent skins 
and crosses the water, promising to return again. This tradi- 
tion or story of the Fair God has been interpreted by Dr. Brin- 
ton as a personification of the sun having a contest with the 
god of darkness. Others, however, maintain that he belonged 
to a race different from the one he civilized; that he created a 
new religion, based on fasting, penance and virtue. The Aztec 
Neptune, or water god, was Tlaloc, whose image is painted 
green and azure, representing the various shades of water. He 
is armed with a wand, twisted into a spiral, ending in a sharp 
point, in representation of a thunder bolt. Tlaloc had a chapel 
on the top of the great temple of Mexico, as important as that 
of Huitzilipochtli, with which it was connected. On the day ot 
the feast of the Tlalocs the priests of these mmisters of the god 
of waters betook themselves to the lagoon of Citlatepetl, sit- 
uated a few miles from Mexico, to cut the reeds for decorating 
the altar. 

Dr. Brinton says: "The American nations among whom a 
distinct and well authenticated myth of the deluge was found 

♦Catlin's North American Indians, Vol. I., page 158. 


are as follows: Athapascans, Algonquins, Iroquois, Cherokees, 
Chickasaws, Caddos, Natchez, Dakotas, Apaches, Navajos, 
Mandans, Pueblos, Aztecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Tlascalons, 
Mechoacans, Toltecs, Nahuas, Mayas, Quiches, Haitians, the 
natives of Darien and Popoyan, Muyscas, Quichuas, Tuppin- 
ambas, Achaguas, Araucanians, and doubtless others."* 

A mountain figures in most of these traditions. The Mexican 
Codex Vaticanus represents the picture of the deluge wth a 
bird perched on the summit of a tree. One of the Mexican 
traditions preserved by Torquemada, identified the pyramid of 
Cholula as the mountain of Tlaloc, the god of rain. Among 
the Araucanians it was a three-peaked mountain and had the 
property of floating on water. These people kept on hand 
wooden bowls to use as parasols, reminding us of the symbol 
of the umbrella in India. The peak of Old Zuni in New Mex- 
ico; that of Colhuacan of the Pacific coast; Mount Neba in 
the province of Guaymi, and Mount Apoala in the Mixtec 
province; Mount Hood among the Klallams, and many other 
mountains have traditions connected with them as places of 
refuge for their ancestors. The number seven has been pre- 
served; one Mexican and one Peruvian myth give out exactly 
seven persons as saved in their floods. This is remarkable, be- 
cause the mystic number in America is four instead of seven, 
though the seven stars of the Pleiades are known and have a 
myth connected with them. Another feature of the myth is 
that the survivor ot the flood is always called the first man and 
IS generally pictured as white, and as coming from the east. 
Quetzacoa'tl was the god of light to the Aztecs. His emblem 
was the bird serpent and his rebus the cross. He was born of 
a virgin. The temple of Cholula was dedicated to him. He 
had a full flowing beard, a white complexion, and wore long 
white robes. Among the Muyscas the hero Bochica bore the 
name "the white one". The Caribs' patron Tamu was "the old 
man of the sky". He had a light complexion, came from the 
east, and went to the east. The Tupis of Brazil were named 
after the first man who survived the flood— Tupa, "guardian of 
the nation," "ruler of the lightning," whose voice is the thunder. 
The expectation of the coming of the white man was common. 
Natives of Hayti told Columbus that his arrival was predicted; 
Montezuma of Mexico told Cortez the same; the Inca Huascar 
told De Soto the same. Old writers— Gomara, Cogolludo and 
others — have taken pains to collect the instances ot this presenti- 
ment among the native races. Brinton says: "Few tribes were 
destitute of such presentiments. The Chickasaws, the Mandans 
of the Missouri, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, the Muy- 
scans of Bogota, the Botocudos of Brazil, the Araucanians of 
Chili, have been asserted, on testimony that leaves no room for 

*See "Myths of the New World," page 126. 


skepticism, to have had these forebodings." These traditions 
of the flood must have been transmitted. We do not undertake 
to follow up the channel through which they flowed, nor to decide 
as to the country Irom which they came, but we cannot help the 
conviction that they bear the impress of systems which were known 
in historic countries. 

Let us now consider the customs connected with the water cult. 
We imagine that there was once in the Far East a system ot 
nature worship which was as rude as anything found in America; 
that at that time the elements of fire, water, lightning, the sun 
and moon, and all the nature powers, were worshiped, or. at least, 
divine attributes ascribed to them. We are sure that serpent 
worship and tree worship prevailed, and appeared in the East, 
though we do not know exactly at what time they appeared. 
Phallic worship and image worship also came in at a certain stage 
in the progress of thought. The last served to corrupt and degrade 
the other systems, and very soon perverted them, so that they 
became sources of degradation to the people. The Scriptures 
condemn these, and history confirms the justice of the sen- 
tence. The tradition of the serpent in the Scriptures may be an 
allegory or a statement of fact, but there is no doubt that the 
serpent worship was a source of degradation and a sentence was 
placed upon it by enlightened conscience. The personification of 
the nature powers did not elevate the people, for when the per- 
sonification grew more elaborate the moral practices grew more 
degraded. When the Eleusinian mysteries were introduced into 
Greece from Egypt, everything became significant of the processes 
of nature. Names were given to the nature powers, and myths 
were invented to explain the origin of the names ; but the myths 
and mysteries did not save the people from degradation. 

While the doctrine of immortality and the future state was 
understood, and the anticipation was symbolized in Egypt by 
embalming the body and transporting it across the Nile; in 
Phoenicia phallic worship and fire worship were devoted to human 
sacrifices, and sun worship itself was attended with the immola- 
tion of human victims. 

All of these systems are found in America, and their symbols 
are scattered far and wide. We do not know whether they are to be 
connected with the decline of religion in oriental countries, or 
with the progress of religion in America, for they are closely 
connected with the nature worship, from which all moral distinc- 
tions were absent. Still, the symbols which, in Eastern lands, 
are suggestive of degraded practices are the very symbols prev- 
alent here. They are symbols which, in the East, belonged to 
the secret mysteries, some of which were known to be full of 

We maintain that the religion of the aborigines here not only 
embodied the same elements as those which became so strong 


in the oriental religions when at a certain stage, but it shows 
how these elements interacted. The fire became the symbol of 
the sun and consumed the offerings made to the sun, and became 
sacred as his servant. The serpent was frequently regarded 
as a divinity in some way amenable to the sun, and so serpent 
pipes and serpent effigies were connected with the sun circle in 
the symbolism of the Mound-buildprs. It is possible that there 
was a certain kind of tree worship;* the same element of life hav- 
ing its chief embodiment in the tree, which was able to stand up 
in its force. The moon cult also prevailed, for the moon is al- 
ways an attendant upon the sun. Whether there was a distinc- 
tion of sex between the sun and moon is unknown; but the sun 
circle and the moon crescent may have been male and female. 

These three types of nature v/orship, in which the fire, the 
serpent and the sun were the chief divinities, probably prevailed 
throughout the Mound-builders' territory, though their symbols 
varied with different localities. We recognize the water cult, 
the solar cult, and the image worship, as different phases of 
nature worship; but we find that in the symbols there was a re- 
markable resemblance to the symbolism of other countries, and 
whether able or not to trace one to the other, we are struck with 
the thought that there was a studied and intentional symbolism, 
which resembled that of the Druids, in all their earthworks. The 
altars, the temple platforms, the burial mounds, the dance circles, 
the village enclosures, and the covered ways, were all here used 
not only for practical purposes and such as would subserve the 
convenience of the people living in the villages, but they were 
especially devoted to religious purposes and contained sym- 
bols in them. The relics also were symbolic, and many of 
them were buried with the persons, — their very position, in con- 
nection with the bodies, having a religious significance. It was 
not one cult alone that was symbolized in these, for some of the 
burial mounds contained offerings to the spirit of the dead — the 
symbols of the soul being placed in the mouth; but there were 
other offerings made to the water, to the sun, others to the fire, 
and others to the moon. The relics placed upon the altars, the 
ornaments, the flint discs, the copper crescents, the mica 
plates, the carved images, and the pottery figures, were all conse- 
crated to the sun, and, when placed as offerings upon the altar, 
bore in their shape the symbol of the sun, as much as the altars 
themselves, or the earth-works in which they were enclosed. 
There is no locality where this system of sun worship is not 
symbolized. What is more, the system seemed to have brought 
into its service, and made useful, the symbols of the preceding 

*Thls is the explanation given by the Dakotas of tree worship. The spirit of life 
■was in the tree. It may be that this wUl account for the tree worship in the East, 
and will explain how tree worship and phallic worship became associated. The two 
in the East were symbolized by the sacred groves, so-called, the symbol of Asharah, 
or Astarle, the moon goddess. 


Stages of worship. The serpent, the phaUic symbol, the carved 
animals, the crescent-shaped relics, the fire-beds, — all were as- 
sociated with the sun circle and made parts of the symbolism of 
sun worship. We imagine the combination to have been as fol- 
lows: The sun symbol was embodied in the earth circles; the 
moon cult in the altars; the fire cult in the ashes in and beside 
the altars; the water cult in the ponds and wells found in and 
near the enclosures; animal worship in the effigies; the phallic 
symbol in the horse-shoe earth-works. We also find that the 
elements, such as the four quarters of the sky, four winds, four 
points of the compass, are symbolized by the cross and four con- 
centric circles. So we come to look at everything as more or 
less symbolic. It is remarkable, as we study the village sites; 
how many of the cohveniencies of village life were placed under 
the protection of the sun divinity, and how much provision was 
made for the worship of the sun under all circumstances. We 
notice that the ponds and springs are near the villages ; that 
covered ways connect the villages with the river's bank, and we 
imagine there was among the Mound-builders, as well as among 
the Pueblos and Cliff-dwellers, a cult which regarded springs and 
rivers as sacred and peopled them with divinities. We imagine 
that the most sacred ceremonies were observed in connecrion with 
these springs, and that the elaborate earth-works were erected 
to give solemnity to the various mysteries, which were directed 
by the secret orders. These different cults were combined, but, 
for the sake of convenience, it will be well to take them up 
separately. Let us consider the water cult as it existed among 
the Mound-builders of America. We shall find very many re- 
semblances in it to the system as it was in the Far East. It 
seems to have existed here, but was closely connected with the 
solar cult, the ceremonies of that cult requiring the presence of 
water to make it complete. We have shown how extensively dis- 
tributed was the tradition of the flood in America, how varied 
was the symbolism which perpetuated this tradition. We do not 
know that any such tradition existed among the Mound-builders 
nor can we discover any symbol which perpetuated it; but the 
water cult which we recognize is very similar to that which pre- 
vailed in Europe at a very early date, and was there symbolized 
in the prehistoric earth-works. We turn, then, to the resemblance 
which may be recognized between some of the earth-works in 
Southern Ohio and those in Great Britain. We have already 
spoken of this, but as certain new investigations and new discov- 
eries have been made, we review the evidence. 

I. The first group of works which we shall cite is the one 
at Portsmouth. The chief evidence is given by the avenues or 
the covered ways, which seem to have connected the enclosures 
on the difterent sides of the river. These, by aid of the ferry 
across the river, must have been the scene of extensive religious 



■ iPSAvarsfliRiiTiirsi ffiSKDViP 


processions, which can be compared to nothing better than the 
mysterious processions ot Druid priests which once characterized 
the sacrifices to the sun among the ancient works of Great Brit- 
ain. It has been estimated that the length of the avenues or 
covered ways was eight miles. The parallel walls measure about 
four feet in height and twenty feet base, and were not far from 
1 60 feet apart. It is in the middle group that we discover the 
phallic symbol (see Fig, 2), the fire cult, the crescent of the 
moon and the sun circle. In the works upon the west bank of 
the Scioto we find the ^.^gy enclosed in a circle (see Fig. 3), as 
a sign of animal worship, and in the concentric circles (see Fig. 4) 
with the enclosed conical mound, on the Kentucky side, we find 
the symbols of sun 
worship. V/e would 
here call attention 
to the theories re- 
cently thrown out 
by Mr. A. L.Lewis 
that the water cult 
was conibined with 
the sun cult at the 
great works at Ave- 
bury; the avenues 
made of standing 
stones having pass- 
ed over the Kennet 
Creek before they 
reached the circle at 
Beckhampton ; the same is true at Stanton Drew and at Mount 
Murray, in the Isle of Man. In each of these places were covered 
avenues reaching across marshy ground towards the circles. "If 
the circles were places of worship or sacrifice, such avenues con- 
necting them with running streams may have had special object 
or meaning."* 

Mr. Lewis says: "I have never adopted Stukeley's snake 
theory, lor I could never see any great resemblance to a serpent, 
nor could I see any thing very suggestive of a serpent in the ar- 
rangement of the other circles. Still, Stukeley's statements about 
the stones of the avenue, leading from the great circle toward 
the river, are very precise," Stukeley says: "There were two 
sets of concentric circles surrounded by another circle, which 
was encircled by a broad, deep ditch, outside of which was an 
embankment large enough for a railway; two avenues of stone 
leading southwest and southeast. The theory now is that they 
led across the water of Kennet Creek to Beckhampton and to 
Overton Hill, The so-called coves in the large circles mark the 

too rt to the Inrti 

S^ryfrtJ ii 8 C Sru^rr anU S J^tmr. 

tig, 2.— Horse Shoe Enclosures at Portsmouth. 

♦Journal of Anthropological Institute, February, 1891 



site of altars, whereon human sacrifice may have been offered to 
the sun; but the avenues mark the place through which proces- 
sions passed in making their sacrifices, — a passage over water 
being essential to the ceremony." 

This is a new explanation of these works, but it is one which 
becomes very significant in connection with the works at Ports- 
mouth. Here the avenues approach the river in such a way as 
to show that a canoe ferry was used to cross the river, the cere- 
mony being made more significant by that means. The covered 
ways, to be sure, do not reach the edge of the water, but termi- 
nate with the second terrace, leaving the bottom-land without 
any earth-work. This would indicate that the works are very 
old, and were, in fact, built when the waters covered the bottom- 
land. It may be said, in this connection, that all the covered 
ways are similar to these; they end at the second terrace, and 

were evidently built 
when the flood- 
plain was filled with 
water. As addition- 
al evidence that the 
works at Ports- 
mouth were devot- 
ed to the water cult 
and were similar to 
those at Avebury, 
in Great Britain, we 
would again refer to 
the character of the 
works at either end 
of the avenues. 
Without insisting 
upon the serpent 
symbol being embodied in the avenues, we think it can be 
proven that the most striking features of the work at Avebury 
are duplicated here; the sun symbol being embodied in the con- 
centric circles upon the Kentucky side; the phallic symbol in 
the horse-shoe mounds upon the Ohio side (see Figs. 2, 3,4) and 
the avenues of standing stones corresponding to the covered ways 
which connected the enclosures on the Kentucky side with that 
on the Ohio side. 

2. The group on the third terrace is one which is the most sig- 
nificant. Here the circle surrounds the horseshoes, as the circle 
of stones does at Avebury. Here, too, is a natural elevation that 
has been improved by art, and made to serve a religious pur- 
pose, Mr. T. W. Kinney says this mound, which was a natural 
elevation, was selected as the site for a children's house. In ex- 
cavating the cellar there was discovered a circular altar composed 
of stones which were standing close together, and showed evi- 

Fig. S.—Bffigy on the Scioto, 





dence of heat. This altar was four feet below the surface. Lead- 
ing from the altar was a channel about eighteen inches wide, 
composed of clay, which was supposed to be designed to " carry 
off the blood", giving the idea that human sacrifices were offered 
here, as they were upon the altars at Avebury. Squier and 
Davis say that the horse-shoes constitute the most striking feat- 
ures; they are both about the same size and shape. They meas- 
ure about eighty feet in length and seventy feet in breadth. 
Enclosing these in part is a wall about five feet high. These 
horse-shoes might well be called coves. The ground within them 
was formerly perfectly level. They open out toward the river 
and were on the edge of the terrace, and so were elevated above 
the surro un di ng 
country and were 
in plain sight. Near 
them was a natural 
elevation eighteen 
feet high, but grad- 
ually subsiding into 
a ridge towards the 
enclosed mound. A 
full view of the en- 
tire group may be 
had from its sum- 
mit. The enclosed 
mound was 28 feet 
high by iio feet 
base. It is trun- 
cated and surround- 
ed by a low circumvallation. Dr. Hempstead, an old resident, 
of Portsmouth, surveyed the works and has furnished the author 
with a diagram. He represents the walls surrounding the horse- 
shoes as continuous, making it a complete circle. In this diagram 
the resemblance to the works at Stone Henge is more striking 
than in the one furnished by Squier and Davis. He says the 
animal mound on the west side was 460 feet long, 300 feet wide, 
the square enclosure 400 feet in diameter. There was a living 
spring near this square, thus showing that the water cult and the 
animal worship were associated. 

Atwater speaks of this group as having wells in close proximity 
to the horse-shoes. He speaks of the earth between the parallel 
walls as having been leveled by art and appearing to have been 
used as a road-way by those who came down the river for the 
purpose of ascending the high place. 

Most noticeable is the mound with concentric circles, which is 
situated on the Kentucky side. The four circles were cut 
at right angles by four broad avenues which conform nearly to 
the cardinal points. From the level summit of this mound a 

4 ^ -Sectron .' 

J>JHr»rf fly J-Q- JVm*/' oiMf £ H.paVi* 

Fig. A.— Sun Circles. 



complete view of every part of this work is commanded. On 
the supposition that it was in some way connected with religious 
rites, the mound afforded the most conspicuous place for their 
observance. See Fig. 4. 

"The mound in the center, at first glance, might be taken for 
a natural elevation. It is possible that it is a detached spur ot 
the hill enlarged and modified by art. It is easy while standing 
on the summit of this mound to people it with the strange 
priesthood of ancient superstition and fill its walls with the 
thronging devotees of mysterious worship. The works were de- 
voted to religious purposes and were symbolic in their design."* 

JPig. 5 — Terraced Mound opposite I'ortsmouth. 

As additional evidence, we may mention the terraced mound 
situated about a mile west. See Fig. 5. Here is a group of ex- 
quisite symmetry and beautiful proportions. It consists of an 
embankment of earth, five feet high, thirty feet base, with an in- 
terior ditch twenty-five feet across and six feet deep. Enclosed 
is an area ninety feet in diameter; in the center of this is a 
mound forty feet in diameter and eight feet high. There is a 
narrow gateway through the parapet, and a causeway over the 
ditch leading to the enclosed mound. This is a repetition of the 
central mound with its four concentric circles. It is said that 
there was near this a square enclosure resembling the chunky 
yards ot the South, and that the group taken together was of a 
Southern type. There are several small circles, measuring from 
one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet in diameter; 
also a few mounds in the positions indicated in the plan.f 

We have dwelt upon the Portsmouth works for the reason that 
they seem to prove the existence of a water cult, and because they 
so closely resemble those in which the water cult has been rec- 

•Anclent Monuments, page 82. 
tMounds like this are common In this district and may be regarded as sun sym- 
bols. See the cut of works at Portsmouth; also of terraced mound in Greenup 
County, Kentucky, and at Winchester, Indiana. 



• ^xttmtliy Btil: 

ognized in Great Britain. We maintain, however, that it was a 
cult which was associated with sun worship, and that the phallic 
symbol was embodied here. We maintain that sacrifices were 
offered to the sun, and that the human victims were kept in the 
corral on one side of the river ; that they were transported across 
the water and carried up to the third terrace, and immolated 
near the horseshoe, and that afterwards the processions passed 

down the terrace, 
through the avenue 
across the river, a 
second time, and 
mounted the spiral 
pathway to the 
summit of the ter- 
raced mound situ- 
ated at the end of 
the avenue. 

In reference to 
this corral (see Fig. 
6), we may say that 
the walls surround- 
ing the area are 
very heavy, and are 
raised above the 
area enclosed, in 
places as much as 
50 feet. They con- 
vey the idea that 
the enclosure was 
for holding captives 
for they resemble 
the walls ofa state's 
prison rather than 
those of a fort; be- 
ing level on the top 
'^and made as if de- 

Mg. 6.— Corral for Prisoners. signed for a Walk 

for sentinels. The parallel walls or covered ways on each side 
of this enclosure have an explanation from this theory. They 
were built to the end of the terrace and were probably intended 
to protect the sentinels who were stationed. at the ends. They 
command extensive views, both up and down the river, and 
were convenient places from which to watch the enemy, as they 
might approach to release the captives. The groups upon the 
Kentucky side and the effigies on the Scioto are connected with 
these horse-shoes and with one another by the avenues. The 
group to the east is interesting on account of its symbolism, and 
the most interesting part is the mound with the spiral pathway^ 


600ft..ID eiebcti. 

SUPPLY UC*4rihllY AkAlt fc S[CTf^N, «. 



We thus see that there were various localities where the 
Mound-builders placed their works near fountains and streams. 
Worthington, in Southern Ohio: Mt. Sterling, in Kentucky; the 
Messier mound in Georgia. These works indicate that there 
were sacred ceremonies connected with the springs. There are 
no traditions which explain these works, nor were there any 
known customs among the tribes formerly in this region wich we 
can identify with these works. We find, however, as we go far- 
ther west and study the customs and myths of the various tribes 
still dwelling there, that the water cult prevailed, and that springs 
were regarded as sacred. See Plate. The Shoshones have a spring 
whose origin they explain as follows: Wankanaga was the 
father of the Shoshones and the Comanches. He arose from a 
cloud as a white-haired Indian, with his ponderous club in his 
hand and with his totem on his breast and struck a rock with 

^^ •OKTh'imCTOM ,f RAttKUf* c». tmro. 


S»a h MA* UA 

Fig. 7 .—Enclosure and Sprinff near Worlhimjton, Ohio. 

his club and caused it to burst forth with bubbling water. In 
Sitka they had a light and fire, but no fresh water, as Kanuph 
kept it all in his well. Yehl, the great divinity, visited this per- 
sonage and managed to steal the water and to scatter it in drops 
over the land, and each one became a spring. 

The question arises, how came these symbolic works to be 
so connected with springs and with water courses. Shall we 
say that the symbols of nature worship originated in this country 
and that they are associated with the springs according to the 
law of parallel development. In England sacred springs are 
regarded as proving that the water cult was introduced, and 
localized, and afterwards perpetuated into historic times. M. Law- 
ence Gomme has treated of this in his book, called "Ethnology 
in Folk Lore." He maintains that the localizing of such myths 
as relate to the water cult, stone worship and demons, preceded 
the tribal myths, and that they were pre-historic or pre-Aryan 
in their origin; that the pin wells, rag wells, and other sacred 



springs were the same as those that were haunted by the rain 
gods and the water divinities. The belief in " river gods, sea 
serpents, hill deities and well worship was nearly universal, and 
was contemporaneous with the area of the negalithic monuments " 
In this country the localizing of the myth and the water cult 
may also have preceded the tribal myth, though the presence ot 
symbols near the springs would show that this cult was trans- 
mitted. The "rain gods" and the "nature powers" were asso- 
ciated with the springs, and there were offerings to the water 

divinities exactly as in Great 
Britain during pre-Aryan times. 
The association of the story ot 
the deluge with some of these 
springs may be merely accident- 
al, yet the presence of the sym- 
bols known in historic countries, 
near some of the springs, would 
render it probable that the water 
cult and the deluge myth were 
introduced in prehistoric times 
and it may be from historic 

The story of the deluge pre 
vailed among the eastern tribes 
of Indians, the Algonkins, the 
Sioux, the Athabascans, the 
Crees, and the Cherokees. In 
these the mountain and tree, the 
lake, the raft or canoe, are prom 
inent, and the ancient Noah 
appears as a divinity, under dif- 
ferent figures and names. There 
is generally an animal, either a muskrat, a loon, a diver duck, or 
otter, which serves the behests of the chief divinity, in bringing 
up the soil from below and making a new earth. The story has 
been localized. A rock at the Mackinaw, another on the Ottawa 
River, a beach at Grand Traverse Bay, and a mountain on 
Thunder Bay are selected as the spot where the event occurred. 
The falls of Sault St. Marie are the scene of another tradition — 
that of the Great Beaver, who opened the dams and let out the 
water, — a tradition which reminds us ot one which is common 
in Great Britain, which is contained in Faber's History of Idolatry. 

The largest number of symbolic works were placed near streams 
and fountains, indicating that the use of water was essential to 
religious ceremony. The traditions linger about many of these 
springs, some of which are interesting and very suggestive. 

Ewbank speaks of the High Priest of the Zuni, whose .special 
duty was to otificiate before the water deities. He seeks for some 

Fig. 8. — Legendary Rock. 



sacred spot where he plants sticks in a circle adorned with 
feathers and threads, and dedicates them to the divinities of water, 
such as frogs, snakes and turtles; these embody his invocation 
for rain. They are, in fact, snares for the spirit of the "water 
divinity". Near these "sacred circles" there are wooden col- 
umns covered with such symbols as the crescent, the Nile key 
and the suastika. These symbols remind us of the nations of 
the east, but the custom is peculiar to the Zunis, among whom there 
is a tradition in reference to the Montezuma as having been the 
divinity of the springs and the preserver of the people. The 
myth bearer is contained in the legendary rock represented in 
the cut. See Fig. 8. This rock perpetuates the tradition of the 
flood and the pair which was 
sacrificed to appease the water 
divinity. The ruins of an an- 
cient town upon a high mesa are 
said to be he place to which the 
Zuni escaped. A horizontal vein 
in the rocks marks the line of 
high water. In the valley of 
Zuni is the singular spring illus- 
trated in the plate, upon which 
is a number of earthen jars in an 
inverted position. It was held 
sacred to the "rain god". No 
animal may drink of its waters. 
It must be annually cleaned with 
ancient vases, which have been 
transmitted from generation to generation and placed upon the 
walls. The frog, the tortoise and the rattle snake are depicted 
upon these vessels, for they represent the water divinities. 

Both the Moquis and Zunis have a custom of bringing water 
from a sacred lake to their pueblo before they commenced their 
rain-dance.* They have one who represents a "fire-god" during 
these rain-dances. There is another singular custom which re- 
minds us of the one described by Catlin as common among the 
Mandans. A man comes from the west and approaches the pueblo 
and finally enters the estufa, while he remains. Food is handed 
down to him. He may represent the ancient man, possibly the 
Noah of the Zunis. There is a rock spring near Williams River, 
within which is a pool of water and a crystal stream flowing from 
it. The rock is covered with pictographs. There are figures cut 
upon the rock near Arch spring near Zuni. There seems to be 
a similarity between them and the inscriptions near Rocky Dell 

Prof. Tylor takes the ground that all such deluge myths can be 

/'/(/. :i. — Altec Miyrutuiii Lcf/end, 

*See Studies of the Ceremonies of tlie Moquis, by Walter i-V wives. 


ascribed to the influence of the missionaries, and that they were 
all post-Columbian in their origin. He maintains that many of 
them are owing to the misinterpretation of the picture writings 
and other traditions of the natives. To illustiate: The migra- 
tion myth of the Aztecs has been preserved in a kind of picture 
writing. In part of this picture there may be seen a curved 
mountain, which arises from a lake; on either side of the mount- 
ain crowned heads; beneath it is a boat; above it a tree. In 
the tree a bird; from the mouth of the bird issue a number of 
symbols, resembling "commas," which might be taken for 
tongues. Fifteen human forms are in front of the bird, each one 
with a totem above his head. This part of the picture has been 
interpreted as representing the Ark, Noah and his wife, and Mt. 
Ararat, the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of the races. 
This interpretation Dr. Tylor thinks entirely gratuitous, and 
maintains that the picture contains no reference to traditions 
which prevailed among the civilized races, but in reality repre- 
sents the history of the jmigrations of the Aztecs. It was the 
popular tradition among the Aztecs that their starting place was 
an island in a lake, and that the voice of a bird started them on 
their wanderings; so a bird with the usual symbols of speech 
was drawn above the mountain. 

Mr. H. H. Bancroft also says that not one of the earliest writers 
on Mexican mythology, those who were familiar with the old 
traditions at the time of the conquest, seem to have known this 
tradition. "A careful comparison of the passages (in the later 
writers) will show that the escape of the Ancon and his wife 
by a boat from the deluge, and of the distribution by a bird of 
different languages to their descendants, rest upon the interpre- 
tation of the Aztec paintings." He intimates that the tradition 
which connects the great divinity of the Toltecs — the white 
god, who was called Quetzatlcoatl — with the pyramid at Cho- 
lula, came from the same source. The story about the departure 
of this god belonged to the ancient Toltec period, which pre- 
ceded the Aztec, and the person that represented the national 
god of the Toltecs, who had, like all the national gods of the 
Americans, a personified nature worship as a basis, but the his- 
torical tradition fastened itself upon the pyramid because of the 
resemblance of the divinity to the ancient Noah. 

There is a plausibility about this view, but there are other 
"picture writings" which contain migration myths, but begin 
with figures or events which resemble those described in Genesis. 
The Red Score or Walum Olum of the Lenapes is a genuine 
"bark record," which is supposed to be prehistoric in its origin. 
It contains pictures of the " primal fog," the " misty waste," the 
"extended land," the sun and moon and stars, and the group of 
islands; also of the "mighty snake" who brought a rushing water, 
destroying much, and the "Strong White One," grandfather of 














men, who lived on the "Turtle Island;" also the Manitou's daugh- 
ter, who came with a "canoe" and helped all who came. Then 
the grandfather of all made the "turtle" into "dry land," the 
"mighty snake" departed and the Lenape lived together in "hollow 
houses". The resemblance to the scripture narrative becomes more 
apparent as we examine the myths of the civilized races. In 
these myths we find allusions, not only to "the mountain," "the 
boat," "the bird," "the gift of tongues," and other events of the 
"flood," but we find also many allusions to the "creation," with the 
same figures which are used in the Scriptures. To illustrate: 
from the fragments of the Chimalpopoca manuscript we learn 
that the Creator produced his work in successive epochs under 
one sign (Tochtli) the earth was created, in another (Acalt) the 
firmament, in the third (Tecpatl) the animals; on the seventh 
(Checatl) man was made out of ashes or dust, by that mysterious 
personage or divinity (Quetzalcoatl). This manuscript is sup- 
posed to be prehistoric, although, according to Bancroft, it shows 
traces of Christian influence and is by him ascribed to the Toltec 
School.* Still it is regarded as "one of the most authentic 
accounts of such matters, extant." There is also the tradition of 
giants upon the earth. We are told by Boturini that the first age 
or sun was called the "Sun of the water;" it was ended by a tre- 
menduous flood, in which every living thing perished except a 
man and woman of the "great race." The second age was called 
the "Sun of the earth" — giants or Quinames were the only in- 
habitants of the world. The third age, the "Sun of the air." was 
ended by tempests and hurricanes. The fourth age is the pres- 
ent, and belongs to the "Sun of fire." It is to be ended by con- 
flagration. Another Mexican version is that, in the "age of 
water the great flood occurred, and the inhabitants were turned 
into fishes and only one man and woman escaped." The man's 
name was Coxcox. They saved themselves in the hollow trunk 
of a bald cypress. They grounded their "ark" on the peak of 
Colhuacan, the "Ararat" of Mexico. Their children were born 
dumb, but a "dove" came and gave them tongues. A Michoachan 
tradition has the name of Tezpi as a substitute for Noah. When 
the waters began to subside he sent out a vulture, but the vul- 
ture fed upon carcasses. Then Tezpi sent out other birds, and 
among them a humming bird. The humming bird found the 
earth covered with new verdure and returned to its old refuge 
bearing green leaves. There is another version which fastens 
upon the pyramid of Cholula. According to this the world was 
inhabited by giants; some of these were changed to fishes, but 
seven brothers enclosed themselves in seven caves. When the 
waters were assuaged one of these, surnamed the "Architect." 
began to build an artificial mountain, but the anger of the "gods" 
was aroused. As the pyramid slowly rose toward the clouds 

*See Bancroft's Native Race.s, Vol, II, p, 547; also Vol. II, p. 69. 


they launched their fire upon the builders and the work was 
stopped. The half finished pyramid still remains, dedicated to 
Quetzalcoatl, the god of the sun. According to another extract 
of this Chimalpopaca manuscript, the god Titlacahuan warned 
the man, Nata and his wife Nena, saying hollow out for your- 
selves a great cypress in which you shall enter and he "shut 
them in." The Miztecs have a legend which they were accus- 
tomed to depict in their primitive scrolls. "In the year and in the 
days of obscurity and darkness before the days of the years were, 
when the v/orld was in great darkness and chaos when the earth 
was covered with water, and there was nothing but mud and 
slime on the face of the earth, behold, a god became visible 
named the deer, and surnamed the 'lion snake,' and a beautiful 
goddess also called the deer and surnamed the 'tiger snake.'" 
The palace of the gods was on a mountain, in the province of 
Mizteca Alta. It was called the "palace of Heaven," Two sons 
were born to them, very handsome and learned. The brothers 
made to themselves a "garden," in which they put many trees, 
flowers, roses and odorous herbs. They fixed themselves in this 
garden to dress it and to keep it, watering the trees and the 
plants and the odorous herbs, multiplying them, and burning 
incense in censors of clay, to the "gods" — their father and 
mother. But there came a great deluge afterward, wherein 
perished many sons and daughters that had been born to the 
gods, but when the deluge had passed the human race was re- 
stored as at first. In Nicaragua it was believed that ages ago 
the world was destroyed by a flood and that the most of man- 
kind perished. In the Papago county, lying south of the Gila, 
there is a tradition that the "Great Spirit" made the earth and 
all other things, but when he came to make man he descended 
from heaven and took clay, such as the potters use, from which 
he made the hero god, Montezuma, and afterward the Indian 
tribes in their order. He made them all brethren; men and 
beasts talked together in common language, but a great flood 
destroyed all flesh, Montezuma and his friend, the Coyote, alone 
escaping. This Montezuma afterward hardened his heart and 
set about building a house that should "reach up to heaven." 
Already it had attained a great height, when the Great Spirit 
launched his thunder and laid its glory in ruins. This legend 
accounts for the connection of the name of Montezuma with 
ancient buildings in the mythology of the Gila Valley, and per- 
haps, also for the connection of the same name with the various 
ruins in Arizona and New Mexico. The legendary adventures 
of this hero are narrated by the natives in all this region. 

We call attention to the wide distribution of the deluge myth 
over both continents of America, and would ask whether there 
was not a good reason for the interpreting, the "picture 
writing" of the Aztecs, as having reference to the same 


event. The picture refers to a migration which had occurred at 
the very earliest date of history, the mountain where it is located 
being often the starting point for the tribe or nation. May it 
not be that the picture embodied the tradition itself, and that it 
represented the starting point of the Aztecs, exactly as Scripture 
traditions represent the starting point of Eastern tribes? We 
maintain that this deluge myth is as thoroughly incorporated 
into the aboriginal literature of America as it is in the ancient 
literature of the East, and that mythology everywhere abouuds 
with it. 

Let us look at some of the traditions. Mount Shasta was 
the wigwam of the great divinity. The smoke was formerly 
seen curling above it. The Great Spirit stepped from cloud to 
cloud down the great ice pile, and planted the first trees near 
the edge. He blew upon the leaves and the leaves became 
birds. He broke sticks in pieces and they became fishes and 
animals. The sun melted the ice and they became rivers. The 
daughter of the Great Spirit looked out of the wigwam and was 
so curious at the sight that she flew away to the earth, and 
mingled with the great bears, and became Eve, the mother of 
the human race. The Papagoes have the tradition that a great 
flood destroyed all flesh, but Montezuma and a Coyote escaped. 
Montezuma was forewarned and kept his canoe ready on the 
topmost summit of Santa Rosa. The Coyote prepared an ark 
out of cane, and the two sailed over the waters and repopulated 
the world. In Northern California the tradition of the flood is 
connected with Tahoe. Lake Tahoe was caused by an earth- 
quake. A great wave swept over the land; the Sierra Mount- 
ains were formed ; the inhabitants fled to a temple tower, which 
rose like a dome above the lake ; but the divinity thrust them like 
pebbles into a cave and keeps them there until another earth- 
quake shall occur. 

The Calitornians tell of a great flood which covered the earth, 
with the exception of Mount Diablo and Reed Peak. The 
Coyote escaped to the peak and survived the flood. At that 
time the Sacramento and San Joaquin began to find their way to 
the Pacific. Thus we see that the myth is localized in connec- 
tion with nearly every mountain, river and lake. The springs 
on the Pacific coast are also localized among the former tribes of 
the Atlantic coast. Now the inquiry arises, would a tradition 
which had been introduced by the missionaries at different times, 
and received by the converts to Christianity, and so altogether 
modern, have been likely to spread so extensively among 
the pagan tribes and to have been so thoroughly adopted by 
them as an integral part of their history. It is to be noticed 
that the tradition, as localized by the pagan tribes, always refers 
to an event which occurred at the very earliest date of history 
and has reference to the starting point or original home of the 


tribes. The only exception to this is the one that relates to the 
pyramid of Cholula, this having been the last place of refuge, 
rather than the starting point of the Toltec race. In the picture 
writing of the Aztecs, the starting point is like that of other 
tribes. It is represented as a mountain beside a lake. After 
the departure irom the mountain to the various points of the 
immigration route the same symbol of the mountain and the tree 
continues. This correspondence between the verbal and the 
written, or in other words, the traditionary and recorded, proves 
that the story must have existed in pre-Columbian times, and 
perhaps was known by the Aztec before they commenced their 
wanderings. It is to be noticed further that the imagery used by 
the pagan tribes wherever any is used in repeating the story 
of the deluge is always such as would be natural to them. The 
wild hunters of the north used the figure of the canoe, the island 
and the lake; the semi-civilized, in the interior, used the figure 
of the cave, the mountain, the auroya; the civilized tribes of the 
southwest used the figure of the boat, the curved mountain, the 
symbol of speech, the temple and the pyramid. This might 
have occurred if the tradition was modern, for the story, when 
filtered through the native minds, would naturally receive the 
tinge of their own thoughts and would vary according to differ- 
ent habits, conceptions and surroundings of the people. We 
must remember, however, that while there is a great difference 
between the versions of the story, yet the same elements remain 
— the boat, the mountain, the ancient divinity who was the first 
ancestor, the flood, the survival from the flood and the repeopling 

of the land. 

These elements or images seem to have been a part of the 
story of the deluge itself They are evidently prehistoric in 
their character and are associated with the prehistoric cultus. 
They have been regarded as autochthonous, but taken in 
connection with the deluge story, they furnish an additional 
evidence of contact with historic countries. There are also 
gymbols of the cross, the suastika, the serpent, the horse-shoe, 
the hand, the eye, the spectacle ornament, the loop, the turreted 
figure, the bird, the Nile key. These symbols are the most 
prevalent in Oriental countries, and the most widespread in this 
country. These symbols are, indeed, associated with the various 
forms of nature worship, but sometimes with the tradition of the 
deluge. In this we recognize a contrast. The water cult in this 
country was, like that of Great Britain, a pre-historic system. It 
was always localized at some spring and was preserved by the 
spring into historic times. These, with the mountains and 
streams, are reminders of the early history of the native tribes 
and of the traditions which seem to have been as familiar to them 
as to us. 



There is an element in the mythology of America which is 
very interesting, but not often described. It may be called 
-" transformation," for that is the word which best expresses its 
character. It consists in the constant overleaping of those 
barriers which, according to modern science, separate the 
various orders of creation, and treats them as though they did 
not exist; mingling birds, animals, and human beings, as 
if they belonged to one order. The effect of this habit, or 
custom, is very peculiar, for it brings all the objects of nature, 
whether plants, trees, birds, animals, or human beings, indis- 
criminately together, and as a consequence there are many 
figures which are distorted and present a very strange appear- 
ance. Animalsappear with human faces; human forms appear 
as having bird's wings, claws and beaks, but with arms and legs, 
having weapons in their hands, either fighting, or in the atti- 
tude of dancing; nondescript figures appear made up of forms 
of vegetation, such as trees, but surrounded by human figures, 
and yet mingled with serpent's jaws and all the varying sym- 
bols which may come from the creation without. 

This element gives a great variety to native mythology, for 
there is nothing to prevent the stories which are told from 
transcending all material bounds. The imagination is given 
full play and the most extravagant tales are told, and seem to 
be believed, as though they were true. It is, however, not con- 
fined to mythology, for it forms a prominent feature in many 
religious ceremonies. In these ceremonies, creatures resembl- 
ing animals, human beings and supernatural creatures are 
mingled together, and seem to be closely related. The animals 
do not themselves appear, but the persons who take part, arc 
so covered and dressed that they resemble animals, and atti- 
tudes are taken which imitate the motions of the animals. It 
is an element which often appears in the relics and gives a 
peculiar character to aboriginal art. There are many speci- 
mens which show great taste for colors and correct ideas of 
form, and much skill in representing forms and faces; yet as a 
fact there are no limitations to hinder, and the strangest crea- 
tions appear. 

The same element of transformation also appears in all the 
secret societies, and forms a prominent part of all the sacred 
mysteries. It also enters into the amusements, public dances, 
and open air performances, and gives to them their greatest 



zest. It exists among all the tribes, but varies according to their 
social condition and habits, for the hunger tribes have one sys- 
tem; the agricultural, another; the mountaineers, another, 
and those who dwell in the arid regions, still another, though 
the equipments and ceremonies of all partake of the physical 
peculiarites of the region in which they take place. 
D The strangest thing about this " transformation," is that it 
increases, rather than diminishes, as civilization advances, for 


the most elaborate and complicated figures appear where art 
and architecture are most advanced, and where the people have 
attained to wealth and power. Illustrations of these different 
points are numerous and are found among the various tribes. 
There are many stories told among the Crows, a tribe situated 
in the northern part of Montana, about the different animals, 
and especially the coyotes. These are turned to buffalos, bears, 
bulls, bald-headed eagles, and thunder birds. There are also 


giants and young and old men, who interchange their forms 
and are married to animals, and have children which are also 
constantly changing their form and appearance. In one case, 
a buffalo skull is seen in the water of a spring. A chief's 
daughter comes to the spring, but the buffalo's skull is gone, 
and in its place a young man wearing a buffalo robe appears 
upon the bank of the spring. The two are married and dis- 
appear. All the animals set to work to find the wedded pair. 
They call upon the buffaloes, who come from every direction 
in great numbers and gather around the tree where the two are 
hidden. This is the reason why buffaloes are so numerous at 
certain times. Many other stories are told by the hunting 
tribes, which represent the most remarkable changes of form 
and appearance as occurring, both among the animals and 
human beings. 

There is a story among the Arapahoes, about a boy who was 
gifted with the power of transforming creatures. He was left 
by his grandmother at home alone, but during her absence he 
exercised his power, which had previously been unknown to 
himself, and suddenly there appeared before him in the house 
all his relatives, especially his uncles, who came dancing out 
from every corner and every side, and appeared to him. His 
grandmother, who was at the end of the world, also suddenly 
appeared, herself surprised that this power had become known 
to the boy. There are many other novel and interesting stories 
of the same kind. 

This habit or superstition about the different creatures be- 
ing transformed and assuming unnatural shapes, will account 
for the abundance of strange relics which are found among the 
mounds of the Mississippi Valley, especially the copper plates 
and shell gorgets, which are so numerous in the stone graves. 
In these we see human figures, with the beaks and wings of 
birds, but dressed as warriors, with elaborate headdress, pouch, 
and war club, and dancing with tokens of victory in hand. 
These have been called " man eagles," or " eagle men," and are 
interesting as reminders of the mythology which prevailed 
among the Mound-Building tribes. (See Fig. i.) 

Catlin, the celebrated painter, has represented the dances 
which occurred among the Mandans, and Miss Alice Fletcher 
has described those which occur among the Dakotas. The 
most prominent feature in these dances is that the men appear 
covered with the skins of buffaloes, or with the. horns of deer 
or elk, and throw themselves into the different attitudes which 
these animals assume and personate their very shapes and 

The tribes on the Northwest coast believe in this transforma- 
tion, to the extent that they often, in their dances and religious 
ceremonies, put great masks upon their heads, and will march 
or dance about the fire throughout the long winter nights and 
find a vast amount of amusement in imagining themselves 



tranbformed into these very creatures. They have also a cere- 
mony in which some person, who is hidden in an adjoining 
room, bursts through the barrier and suddenly appears in a strik- 
ing attitude. (See Plates.) The best illustration is found among 
the Navajoes, among whom the sand paintings are the most 
conspicuous objects of native art. These consist of figures 
which represent the Nature powers. Rainbows which form arches 
resembling the arch of the sky, are humanized, having heads 
and arms at one end, and body and legs at the other. There 
are sunbeam rafts in the form of crosses, made of different 
colored sand, and upon these are placed the figures of god- 
desses, which have many-colored skirts and wear caps or hats 

Fig. 2. — The Maya Gods of Death, Life and Growth. 

which are trimmed with fleecy clouds; around their waists they 
wear sashes, which resemble rainbows; at their side are birds 
and animals which come from the mountains, also, sprigs and 
sprays which come from the forest. The sand paintings repre- 
sent the personal di\inities of the Navajoes, and in this respect 
resemble the sacred dramas of the Zunis and the codices of 
the Ma)'as. 

The figures in the cut are from the Dresden Codex and 
represent the Gods of Death, Life and Growth, as well as the 
various operations of nature. 

The Pueblo tribes also believe in this transformation, and 
embody their belief in their dances and ceremonies in such a 
way as to make them the most realistic of all the religious cere- 


monies that are known. Among this people are many so-called 
" altars," which resemble the. "sand paintings, ' in that they 
present a great variety of figures or symbols, and with all 
colors displayed upon them. These altars have been described 
by Mr. J. Walter Fewkes, who explains their different parts. It 
appears that every clan had a great sky god, and an earth god, 
or goddess. Each clan also had its totemistic ancestors, male 
and female, and culture heroes, or heroines; these are imper- 
sonated symbolically, and may be represented by a human be- 
ing, or by animals and birds, or by all combined. In these 
altars are medicine bowls covered with symbols, also radiating 
lines of sacred meal representing the six directions; cars of 
corn of different colors, which corresponded to the directions: 
Yellow, for north; blue, for west; red, for south; black, for the 
above, and speckled, for the below. The altars are made out 
of wooden slats cut in shape to resemble the human form, but 
painted with many different colors. A large number of them 
are placed upright, making them resemble an old-fashioned 
fire-place, while in front of them are figures made of different- 
colored sand, surrounded by images of various kinds and ears 
of corn of different colors. They are called altars because 
they are objects of worship and are full of symbols. 

There are pictures of " the Growth God," and slats bearing 
symbolic birds; also boards painted with semi-circular figures 
representing the sky, parallel lines symbolizing rain, zigzag 
markings symbolizing lightning; also images which are the 
tutelary "clan ancients," and others representing the sun and 
"Germ Gods"; also the butterfly symbols, and many other 

The public dances of the Hopis and other Pueblo tribes are 
also full of symbols and ceremonies, which are the result of 
this belief in transformation; and many different societies em- 
body the belief that supernatural beings were present. Mr. 
Fewkes recognizes strong affinities with the tribes further 
south, such as the Nahuas and Mayas, in these ceremonials, 
and traces a resemblance between the symbols common among 
them and those found in the codices.* 

Among the partially civilized tribes of the Southwest, 
mainly the Nahuas and Mayas, the same supersitition formerly 
prevailed, for here we find symbols of various kinds scattered 
among the ruins, and also see pictures with many colors and 
strange figures, in which there is a mingling of all orders of 
creation in the codices. In fact, this element of transforma- 
tion is so prominent in Mexico and Central America, that it 
furnishes us a key to the solution of the problems which have 
been very diflficult. 

There are in the codices figures which represent the different 

•See "Central American Ceremony, which Sugfesti the Snake Dance of the Tusayan 
Villagers." Reprinted from the American Anthropologist, Wasninf ton, D. C; 1903. 

Also, "A Stady of Certain Figures in a Maya Codex," Washington, D. C, July, 1894. 



divinities. Some of them appear in skeleton form in strange 
attitudes; others have faces with peculiar expressions, but trom 
the mouth are seen issuing serpent tongues. Other figures are 
partly animal and partly human. The whole picture or page 
represents creatures in the most grotesque attitudes, but all of 
them so strange and shadowy that we can scarcely tell whether 
they were intended to represent animals, human beings, or 
divinities, and yet they are in the midst of hieroglyphics which 
evidently tell the story of the past. (See Fig. 2.) 

There are also among the codices charts which contain trees 
in the form of crosses, with flowers at the end of the branches. 
Above the trees are birds of different kinds, while below may' 
be seen the jaws of serpents and other strange figures. Repre- 

Fig. J. — TAe Tree of Life Transformed . 

sentatives of all the different orders of creation are mingled 
together in a strange way, and yet make symbols which repre- 
sent periods of time and convey religious thoughts. 

It appears from this, that all the different kingdoms 
of nature are combined together and symbolized; the sky 
above, by the birds; the earth, by the plants and flowers; the 
realms below, by the dragons' or serpents' heads. The four 
seasons were also represented by the four trees; the four 
directions, or cardinal points, by the branches of the trees. 

There were many religious ceremonies, also among the 
partially civilized tribes, which depended upon this element 
of transformation for their effect, and there are even temples 
and palaces which present strange figures in their interior, in 
the shape of crosses surmounted by birds, with a human form 
on either side, and contorted animals below them; the whole 



symbolizing the Nature powers, and at the same time forming 
objects of worship. 

. In studying ths symbols which are thus brought together 
in the calendars and codices we will find that nothing appears 
separate and distinct, for all the realms of nature are united; 
the Nature powers being generally represented by human 
creatures. It is remarkable that symbolism should have been 
carried so far by these partially-civilized peoples, but it must 
be remembered that pictographs and symbols took the place 
-of writing. The pictographs were historical records, but these 
charts were calendars, from which the priests and learned men 
reckoned the time. The employments of the people, as well 
as their religious ceremonies, were regulated by the priests, 

Fig. 4 — 77^1? Tree of Life Transformed, 

who studied these calendars and their symbols, and it is sup- 
posed by some that the astronomical events and long periods 
of time were recorded by them. The codices contain the best 
specimens of transformation, for in these the divinities are 
represented, generally by human figures in such a way that 
their sphere of action and character are plainly indicated. 
The transformation is not so apparent at first, yet the more we 
Study the codices and calendars, the more we realize that all 
the realms of creation are represented in them, but are 
strangely blended and interchanged: 

It will be noticed that there are below the figures of the 
trees twenty different symbols, consisting of birds, animals, 
minerals, reptiles, house, &c. These are grouped so as to re- 
present the twenty days of the month divided into four weeks 
of five days each. We find in these symbols and the accom- 


panying pictographs, a chart which gires to us a pretty correct 
idea of the calendar which prevailed among the Mayas. 

It was, however, the religious sentiment that gave signifi- 
cance to the symbols, for this threw a mysterious air over all 
the realms of creation, and mingled the natural with the super- 
natural. The study of the symbols convince us that the same 
'general principles which were embodied in the ceremonies and 
in the relics of the wild tribes were brought together in a small 
compass and presented to the eye by the mute symbols, which 
required close study to understand and interpret. 

Interesting specimens of this transformation maybe found 
in Nicaragua, for here we see idols, finished in the round but in 
singular attitudes, while upon their shoulders and above their 
heads may be seen the great jaws of crocodiles; and again 
other figures, with a semblance of bears, yet having human 
forms. This element of transformation appears even in the 
codices and sacred writings of the Mayas, for in them we sec 
rows of hieroglyphics, but between the rows are nondescript 
creatures, dressed with varied costumes and assuming different 
attitudes, but upon their heads they wear ornaments which are 
in reality symbols. Their faces are very unnatural, for, while 
they have the eyes, nose, and mouth of human beings, there 
can be seen the serpent fangs and tongues and other strange 
symbols which transformed them into human beings. 

This element of transformation seems to have had effect 
upon the architecture of the region, for nearly all the palaces 
have facades on which are sculptured figures of plumed ser- 
pents, and above them are seated figures with glaring eyes and 
hooked noses, generally called the manitou face, and many 
barbaric ornaments, which can only be understood and ex- 
plained by the mythology which prevailed. We may say that 
the religious ceremonies, the mythologies, and the symbols of 
all the tribes cannot be understood, unless we take this element 
of transformation into account. By its aid, however, we may 
trace the connection between the different tribes and races, 
and learn that there was a mass of symbolism which was trans- 
mitted from the past. 

Discoveries are being made which'show the prevalence of 
this system. Even the best specimens of art seem to have been 
affected by it. The beautiful urns which have been recently 
exhumed in Nicaragua, are now in the possession of the Museum 
of Natural History of New York. 

It is worthy of notice that among the tribes of the North- 
west coast the chief divinity was called the " Transformer." 
Such, too, was the real character of the divinities of the Nava- 
joes, the Zunis, and the various Pueblo tribes. 

As to the divinities of the Mound-Building tribes, we 
are not so sure; yet the relics indicate that the chief trait 
was this power of transformation. This is illustrated by 
the copper plate, especially by the wings and the beak on 


the same. There were also taken from the same mound certain 
copper objects, which were evidently designed for ornaments of 
a head-dress. These, though made of copper, have the same 
shape as the so-called banner stones. 

We now come to the explanation of these figures, which is 
really the object of this chapter. This will be gained by the 
study of other fignres, especially the myths connected with them. 

It was a strange conception among nearly all of the North 
American tribes that there were no lines which could keep apart 
the natural and the supernatural, the human and the divine, for 
all things were blended together in a shadowy way, and were 
easily transformed, as if seen in a dream. As in looking into 
the fog which sweeps into the shore, the divisions between the 
sky and sea and solid land are dimly blended and obscure, and 
even those objects which have a definite shape seem to be mon- 
strous in their size, and fill one with awe because of their strange 
appearance, so to the eye of superstition there was no separation 
between the different realms of creation, no distance between the 
divine and human beings, but all were mingled together in one 
common realm, the superstition of the people doing away with the 
distinction between the substance and shadow, form and spirit, the 
feeling of awe and the sense of worship being aroused by every- 
thing that was strange or that excited their wonder. The divini- 
ties could assume the shape of animals or birds and nondescript 
creatures, and appear in any of the elements — the earth, air and 
water. They were all equivalent to the nature powers, and em- 
bodied in their strange forms the different forces of the sky. 
They could assume the human form and make that the highest 
manifestation of their presence. They were always supernatural, 
but made the natural objects subject to their power and so made 
their presence known. Stars came to earth and dwelt among 
men, men and women were changed to stars and dwelt in the 
skies; serpents came out of the water and married women; 
women changed to serpents and followed their lovers into the 
water; birds swept down the mountains and across the lakes, 
and changed to feathered serpents; serpents were carried up to 
the clouds and shot as lightning from the skies; great monsters 
appeared upon the earth and devoured men for food, but the 
monsters became stones and their bones were seen upon the 
shore; forests changed to shadows and through them invisible 
spirits made their way. Such was the power of transformation 
that even the spirit world became as substantial as the material, 
the material itself became ethereal, which was constantly sug- 
gesting the presence of the divinities. The mythology of the 
aborigines was full of these strange stories of transformation, and 
owes its beauty in part to the fact that it had to do with the 
realms of the spirit. There was all the play of fancy which is 
possible to poetry, and all the charm that is contained in the fairy 



stories, but the thought was controlled by the spirit of devotion 
and the myths were of a dreamy and shadowy character, and 
have a peculiar charm which is found no where else in literature. 
Now it is to this transformation element in the myths and 
symbols that we are to call attention, for this is the clue by 
which we are to interpret the various figures which are brought 
before us, and especially those which represent the human form 
in combination with the various parts of birds and beasts and 
other creatures. These figures may well be studied, for they 
contain within themselves many of the myths which were preva- 
lent in prehistoric times, and so may be regarded as " myth- 
bearers" to the historic days. They are to be compared with 
the masked figures which are recognized in the various dances, 
for they probably represent the same conceptions, namely, that 

human beings could be 
easily changed into ani- 
mals and birds and that 
the totems of the clans 
could thus be brought 
near, and the divinities 
appeased and the prayers 
be granted, the drama- 
tization of the prayers 
being perhaps embodied 
in the figures as well as 
in the dances, the relics 
thus serving the same 
purpose as the "sand- 
paintings" and the carved 
columns, the transforma- 
tion element being con- 
tained in all alike. 

We have spoken of a 
few of these, but have 

Fig. 5.-8erpent and Human Face. confined OUrselveS tO the 

winged figures and to the human images which were inscribed 
upon copper plates and shell gorgets taken from the mounds, but 
there are many other specimens scattered over the different parts 
of the continent, and many means of representing them. These 
miy all be called "mythologic creatures," for they embody the 
myths of the prehistoric races, but they need to be studied with 
this thought in mind, for they are so varied and contain so many 
strange conceptions that were it not for the transformation cle- 
ment we should be utterly bafifled in our effort to interpret their 
meaning or to understand their object. We shall therefore call 
attention to the transformation cult as it is presented in the 
various localities, and to the different figures in which it is man- 

ifested throughout the land. 

The following 

may be taken as a 



list of the objects which have perpetuated the cult and which 
have been chosen as the means of representing it to the eye: 
(l) Figures seen in the rock inscriptions; (2) effigy mounds; (3) 
carved posts; (4) masks and helmets used in dances; (5) painted 
figures and personal decorations and the attitude of dancers; 
(6) the images which were used in religious ceremonials; (7) the 
figures inscribed upon the shell or copper plates, stone tablets, 
carved pipes and pottery vessels found in the mounds; (8) the 
figures which were painted or carved upon the houses; (9) the 
figures which were wrought in stucco and placed in the shrines; 
(10) carved stone figures, made to ornament the fagades of the 
palaces; (11) statues in stone and wood, made to represent 
the sun divinities; (12) the figures which are portrayed by the 
codices and ancient calendars of the civilized tribes. It will be 
noticed that the figures are numerous 
and widely scattered. Such is the 
variety and distribution of these va- 
rious figures that we are constantly 
reminded of the great store of myth- 
ology which was formerly prevalent, 
but which is passing away. These 
"mythologic creatures" often baffle in- 
terpretation and are very mysterious, 
and the symbols which contain them 
are often difficult to understand. Yet 
the more we study the mythologies 
of the people and compare these with 
the figures which come before the eye, 
the better are we able to identify the ^^ 
myths in the symbols and the more ^^"' 
meaning do we find — that which was 
a sealed book becomes eloquent with 
a hidden sense, and beauties which 
were unobserved are brought before us to awaken our admira- 
tion and surprise.* The best aid, however, to the interpretation 
of the mythologic creatures is the one which is furnished by the 
so-called "transformation myths." We shall therefore reier to 
these, taking the pictographs and the myths as the double key, 
or rather as the lock and key, by which we may open the door 
to the inner chamber of the various religious systems. 

I . Let us consider the transformation of the creator into animals. 
This was a common superstition among the partially civilized. 

Fig. 6.— Pottery Idol. 

*One of the most important aids in this work is the volume which has recently been 
published by the Ethnological Bureau and which describes the Picture Writing of the 
American Indians (see Tenth Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology). The author. Col. 
Garrick Mallery, makes no attempt to identify any of the mythologic divinities in these 
figures and briefly refers to the symbols contained in them, yet from the study of the rude 
drawings or engravings in the volume we may follow on from one figure to another and trace 
the general resemblance between them and then apply the myths already known until we 
have made out a tolerably satisfactory system. 



tribes. The idea of the Creator with them was that he was a 
"transformer" or "changer." He was called "the master of life," 
"the holder of the heavens," "the old man of the ancients," "the 
god of beasts and men," and was regarded as a person having 
supernatural power, but was pictured as an animal or bird, though 
endowed with human attributes. The animal varied according 
to the locality. Among the eastern tribes it was the rabbit; 
among the tribes on the Pacific coast it was the coyote; among 
the tribes of the interior, the Moquis, it was the mountain lion 
or bear; among the tribes on the gulf coast, the eagle; in the 
southwest, among the civilized tribes, the tiger and the feather- 
headed serpent that represented the creator and the culture hero. 

The divinity, however, rarely retained any ani- 
mal semblance long at a time, for he was con- 
stantly changing into other animals and into 
the human form, and at times was without 
form except as the elements, such as the 
lightning, the clouds, the rain obeyed his be- 
hests and became the sign of his power. The 
myths abound with stories of his adventures 
and he always comes before us as a person 
having human frailties and resembles Zeus, 
the chief god of the Greeks, in this respect. 
He was unlike Zeus, however, in that he could 
leave his Olympus and his position as the 
"chief of gods and men" and become an ani- 
mal and act like other animals — proving to be 
the "god of beasts as well as men." 

The power of transforming himself into 
any object of nature was also enjoyed by 
each one of the culture heroes and creators. 
To illustrate, let us take the stories of Glooskap, the chief god 
of the Abenakis. He was able to transform everything at his 
will. One story is that there were stone giants; these were 
ravenous cannibals, but they were changed to stones, which can be 
seen in various places. An army of these giants ran across the 
river at Niagara, just below the falls, but they were changed to 
stones, which are still to be seen. The story is told of the great 
magician, called Kitpoosegenow, that he changed the rocks on 
the sea coast into canoes and the smaller rocks into paddles and 
a long splinter, taken from a ledge, into a spear. He changed a 
nian into a pine tree, which became exceedingly tall, so that his 
head rose above the forest. One who enters a pine forest and listens 
may hear the tree murmuring all day long. He took the great 
bird calltd the " wind-blower," — '' Woochozvscn'' — who lived far 
to the north and sits upon a great rock and makes the wind by 
the moving nf its wings, tied both his wings and threw him into 
a chaMii, ;ind there was a dead calm for many weeks. He after- 

Big. 7 .— I dol from the 
West Indies. 


ward loosened one of his wings and then the winds blew but as 
if with a broken wing. Glooskap had two dogs which barked 
at night and filled the forest with their echoes. One was the 
coyote and the other the loon, the voices of both these creatures 
being very weird and ghost-like. 

The Iroquois also have many myths about their "master of 
life" or "holder of heaven," who is called loskeha and who re- 
sembled Glooskap, the Abenaki god. He was pictured as a giant 
rabbit, but was a great magician and a wonderful "transformer."* 
He was able to change himself into any animal and could change 
other animals into new. One of his greatest adventures was 
that he caught themischievious sprite Pauppukeewis,who eluded 
him by jumping from continent to continent, and changed him 
into a war eagle. He overcame also the "prince of the serpents," 
and finally himself became the great lawgiver Hiawatha. They 
hold also that Hiawatha himself was changed. After terminat- 
ing his mission upon the earth he took his magic canoe and 
sailed away to the skies. A modern story is that the Atotarho, 
the enemy of Hiawatha, was changed from a horrid monster into 
a quiet man by a series of prayers. 

There are many stories of the transformation of culture heroes 
and divinities into serpents. We 
have elswhere told the story of 
Manibozho, the Algonkin di- 
vinity, and have given a cut to 
illustrate it — the cut of the pipe 
with the tree and serpent and 
human face.* There is a legend 
of the transformation of the great FUj.s-Haiaa Cawing. 

creator into a serpent still extant among the Hopis or Moquis. 
The figure given herewith (see Fig. 5) is that of a water pitcher 
or cooler from Peru. It represents a serpent and human face 
combined, and reminds us of the idols which were so common 
in Guatemala. No tradition is connected with it, and yet it may 
represent the same superstition 

The myths of the northwest coastf among the tribes of the 
Klamaths, Thlinkeets, Haidahs, illustrate this superstition very 
clearly. Among the Klamaths the creator of the world is 
(Kmukamtch) the "old man of the ancients," the "primeval old 
man," equivalent to old man above, or the chief in the skies of 
California. He was as great a deceiver and trickster as Gloos- 
kap was. He is the culture hero of his people. He did not 
make the world by one act, but made the lakes, islands, prairies 
and mountains, one after the other, and gave a name to each. 
He created the rocks shaped like a crescent, because the sun 

*See Chapter XVI, p. 377. 

tSee American Antiquarian, Vol. 6; article by Rev. M. Eells. See the Klamath 
Indian of SouthvTcstern Oregon, by A. S. Gatschet, page LXXIX. 


and moon once lived there. He was changed into a rock, which 
stands in the Williamson River. He travels in the path of the 
sun till he reaches the zenith, where he builds a palace and lives 
there with his daughter. The second in importance is the son ot 
the creator, called Aishish, who has great personal beauty. He 
is the genius of the morning star, or the rainbow, or the moon, 
and personifies the atmospheric changes. The moon is his 
campfire. The moon, seen through the pine trees, is the shadow 
of the famished Aishish. As the moon brings the months and 
the seasons, so the quadrupeds and birds which appear after the 
long winter months are considered his wives, and the flowers of 
summer vegetation are the beads of his garments. He is called 
the time measurer, the one that tells the time. As the revolutions 
of the moon bring the weeks and months, so the measuring of 
time was ascribed to Aishish, the moon god. The elementary 
deities are mysterious shadowy beings. The thunders are five 
brothers, the interior of whose lodge is dark, as the sky obscured 
by a thunder-storm, but their terrible weapon is the lightning, or 
thunderbolt. They are five, because the thunder rolls along the 
mountains in repeated peals. 

2. The power of transforming other creatures was sometimes 
delegated to the medicine men and individuals. Among the wild 
tribes this power became almost equivalent to magic, and gave 
great influence to the sorcerers, for the superstition was that they 
had control over the elements and were in constant communica- 
tion with the supernatural. We can hardly appreciate this 
influence unless we take into the account this element of trans- 
formation. The barriers between the ghost world and the spirit 
of man were so broken down that superstition of the people was 
easily played upon, and they -were made to believe that super- 
natural leings were actually present. Even among the more 
cultivated tribes there was a dramatization of the nature powers 
under the semblance of serpents and other figures, the transforma- 
tion of the elements into animal forms being in the hands of the 
priests. The sand paintings owed their magic power in curing 
the sick to this thought. When the colors of the sky were used 
the sky spirits or sky divinities were actually present. The 
tracking of the disease into the various parts of the body and 
using the power of magic in the presence of the sky divinities 
was sufficient to effect marvelous cures in many cases. The 
superstition about the soul being able to pass through the 
mountains and into the rocks and to change its form, to leave 
the body and to take it up again, was also owing to the "trans- 
formation" elements, which so ruled the fancies of the people 
who dwelt among the mountains. 

We may say of all these different kinds of transformation, that 
they were based upon the thought that the human was the 
highest form of being, yet the human must become animal in 


order to hold communion with the divine. This was the case, 
especially where totemism prevailed.* 

This power of transformation also came upon individuals on 
special occasions, especially in ceremonial dances. It was a gift 
enjoyed by a few favored individuals in their childhooJ. These 
were looked upon with peculiar awe, as if they were great 
manitous. An excellent illustration of this may be found in the 
account which has already been given of the dance seen by Cat- 
lin, called the buffalo dance.f This dance preceded the initiation 
of warriors, and was very suggestive of the transformation ele- 
ment. Examination of the plates will show this. In them it 
will be seen that the dancers wore the horns and skins of buffalos, 
but various persons have the forms of bears and antelopes and 
of buzzards or vultures. These surround the "medicine lodge," 
while others, with their bodies painted to represent the day and 
the night, appear among the dancers, all the animal gods and 
the sky gods being personified, and the myth of the creation and 
the flood being dramatized in the dance. :|: 

We have the testimony on this point of Professor William- 
son, a son of a missionary among the Dakotas, who often 
witnessed in his boyhood the dance called the medicine dance. 
He says: "The celebrated ghost dance, so-called, of the Dakotas 
o^ the Pine Ridge agency perpetuates one of its old forms — 
an old craze under a new name. In my boyhood I often wit- 
nessed this dance, usually called the medicine dance, although 
in particular forms it was called the sun dance. The ghost is 
only another name for the latter form. The dance I best remem- 
ber was held in Kaposia. (South St. Paul), about the summer of 
1849. Its chief object was the initiation of new members into a 
secret society, the Waukau order, into which only favored indi- 
viduals were admitted. Members came from many other bands. 
They stated that, in some of these dances, the dancers actually 
became, for the time, by transmigration of souls, the very ani- 
mals they worshiped, and involuntarily and necessarily they 
imitated them; they acted not as men, but as these animals, while 
under the spell. The buffalo and deer ate grass, panthers, wolves, 
bears and foxes raced and quarreled over the small anmials and 
fishes brought into the enclosure for the purpose, tearing them 
with their teeth, and eating them raw. At an-other time some 
malignant spirit, it was supposed, took possession of the one to 

♦See Charles Leland's Algonkin Legends, Micmac Indian Legends, by Rev.S. T. Rand. 

tSec Chapter on Sky Worship, pp. 142-4. Also Water Cult. p. 231. 

jCatlin has als' described a dance of the Mandans called the bear dance which was in 
reality a dramatization of a prayer. He says, •'Many in the dance wore masks on their 
faces made ot the skins from the bear's head, and all with the motion of their hands closely 
imitated the movements ot the animal, some representing its motion in running, some its 
peculiar attitudes and hanging of its paws when it was sitting upon its hind part and look- 
ing out tor the approach ofan enemy." The same was true also of the buffalo dance for in 
this the dancers wore the head and horns of the buffalo and also imitated the motions of the 
buffalo when they were hunted. The women in both these join in a peculiar song to the 
bear or buffalo spirit which must be consulted and conciliated beforesuccess can be gained. 
See Catlin's Indians, Vol. i, p. 246. 


be initiated, and he must be exorcised and destroyed, so the 
dancers, with guns and bows and arrows, were ready to shoot 
the evil spirit as soon as the signal was given. Whatever the 
object of worship, whether animal or bird, tree or stone, they 
were always careful to state that it was not the object itself, but 
the Waukau, the god that was accustomed to haunt the object, 
which they worshipped. In some cases the soul of a departed 
ancestor had entered into the animal, and they worshiped that. 
They stated that the gods not only haunted the animals, but in 
an especial manner were present in the pictographs and images 
which represented the animals and which were used in the 
dances. They also spoke of particular localities in which they 
fancied a natural resemblance to some object, either animal or 
other form, and therefore in an especial sense the seat of the god 
or spirit of that animal. If the god could dwell in a little picto- 
graph, how much more potently might he be expected to present 
himself in an immense effigy. In the days of the full sway of 
superstition not only the members ot the Waukau society, but the 
whole people were under the domination of the leaders, ready 
to do anything that might be demanded, and all that was neces- 
sary was for some leader of the Waukau to command the people 
to build the effigies and they were sure to be erected." 

3. The superstition that the divinity was transformed into various 
objects in nature, making them "myth-bearers," was common. 
Many illustrations of this have become familiar to the author 
from frequent observation of the effigy mounds. It was the cus- 
tom of the native tribes throughout the Mississippi valley to erect 
effigies of various animals, especially serpents, upon the cliffs 
and hill-tops, with the purpose of bringing out the resemblance 
which had been recognized in the shape of the hill. In this way 
the hill was transformed into an animal effigy and it was shown 
that the spirit ot the animal actually haunted the hill. This, how- 
ever, was the same superstition which recognized the shape of 
the animals in the rocks and rivers and trees, and which affixed 
a myth to these objects to account for the resemblance. The 
work of art in the case of the effigies, the rock mscriptions, and 
the standing stones, was only designed to bring out the thought 
the more clearly, but the eye of superstition was always ready to 
recognize the resemblance. Various authors have spoken of this. 

Col. Garrick Mallery says: *Tn many parts of the United 
States and Canada rocks and large stones are found decorated 
with paint, which were regarded as possessing supernatural 
power, yet not directly connected with any special personage of 
Indian mythology. One such was seen by LaSalle's party in 
1669 on the Detroit River. All the Indians of the region be- 
lieved that the rock image would give safety in the passage of 
the lake." He also says that in Nova Scotia there is a class of 
incised figures illustrating the religious myths and folklore of 



the Indian tribes. One of them indicates an episode of an ad- 
venture of Glooskap, the hero-god of the Abenakis. The story 
is that the fox, who was Glooskap's friend, through his magic 
power heard the song of Glooskap miles away, beyond forests 
and mountains, and came to his rescue. Another pictograph 
refers to the story of Atosis, the snake, who appeared out of the 
surface of a lake as a young hunter, with a large shining silver 
plate on his heart, covered with white brooches as thick as a fish 
is covered with scales. This snake, which had such wonderful 
powers of transformation, married an Indian girl and took her 
to dwell with him beneath the lake. There is a variation of the 
same story among the Iroquois, but this time it is the wife which 
appears above the water. The story runs that a young hunter 
was seekmg for his friend who had been lost. He met eight 
chiefs, who wore white plumes on their heads and who dwelt in 

eight tents by the side of the 

lakes. These chiefs called up 
the snake-woman. The lake 
boiled, great waves rolled upon 
the shore, and the serpent's 
wife came out of the water, 
shining like silver and very 
beautiful, her long hair hang- 
ing around her as if it had 
been gold. The snake woman 
disappeared, and then the 
chiefs swept in the form of a 
white cloud across the water. It was the cloud in the lake and 
not in the sky. Thus the conception of the natives transformed 
the objects of nature into living beings, and invented beautiful 
myths to account for them. The pictographs are oftentimes 
nothing more than the mnemonic reminders of the myths. 

In West Virginia there are rock sculptures in which are ser- 
pents, death-heads, animal figures, birds, human hands and various 
other designs, undoubtedly designed to represent the animals 
which were subject tu the power of the medicine man. These 
inscriptions are on the walls of a shelter cave, which was proba- 
bly once used as a shrine or medicine lodge. They show the 
communion which the medicine men had with the different 
species of animals and the superstition felt towards the pictures 
or figures of these animals wherever seen. The fabulous crea- 
ture called the Piasa, which was seen by Marquette on the rocks 
near Alton, lilmois; was another of these myth-bearers, which 
embodied in themselves the element of transformation, the very 
grotesqueness of the figure and the variety of its parts, the horns 
of the deer, the head of the tiger, the scales of the fish, the feet 
of the panther, the tail of the wildcat, showing the shapes which 
this Caliban might assume. Many such creatures may be seen 

J'^ff 9 - Figures in a Cace in West Virginia. 


upon the rocks, but they only perpetuate the myths which have 
prevailed. The Dakotas were remarkable for their manner of 
representing their divinities under animal forms. They picture 
the ancestors of the Hanga as a giant buffalo moving under the 
water. They also picture the chief god as a thunder bird resting 
on the rocks. The anti-natural god they picture as a man car- 
rying a bow in his hands. Mrs. Eastman has given a drawing 
of this. In this the giant is seen using the frog tor an arrow 
point. He is surrounded with lightnings. He has different 
animals, the bear, deer, elk, buffalo; also meteors. His court, 
or house, is ornamented with down. He has a whistle and rattle, 
bow and arrow, and other objects in his hands. 

There are many other illustrations of this peculiar superstition 
that the spirit of the Divinity was transferred to the images which 
are presented in the different localities. This superstition was 
not confined to the figures of animals, but was also attached to 
every object which resembled the human form, and was espe- 
cially strong toward those objects which contained the human 
and the animal semblance in combination. This will explain 
the existence of the idol called the bear idol. In this the bear's 
head and skin covers the human face and form, but the mask 
in the shape of the human face hanging in tront is a peculiar 
sign of the transformation process.* It also explains the meaning 
of the various figures of birds, with human heads and animal 
claws, which are so common on the northwest coast, as well as 
those remarkable idols in Guatemala, in which human forms are 
covered with massive and gigantic tigers. 

In fact, it is to this idea of transformation which explains 
nearly all the nondescript creatures which have been seen in the 
various parts of the continent, and which makes them so sug- 
gestive and significant of the divinities which were worshiped. 

Schoolcraft, Catlin and others have spoken of the animal 
figures which are depicted in the Mida songs and charts, to which 
peculiar significance was given. They have also described the 
transformation, which was supposed to take place in the various 
dances and dramatizations. But it is to later writers, such as 
Mr. Walter Fewkes, Mr. Frank Gushing, and Drs. Brinton and 
Mathews, that we are indebted for a knowledge of the deeper 
significance which was given to many of them, and especially to 
the occultic and divinatory power. 

There were several classes of animal figures in which the 
transformation element was contained, some of them being 
totemic, others mythologic, others fetichistic, others occultic or 
divinatory, and still others largely anthropomorphic. The class 
to which they belonged is made known by the preponderance of 
one or another element, the totemic prevailing mainly in the 

•See Chapter on Personal Divinities, p. 383, 304, Fig. 2, Bear idol. 


hunter tribes of the ease, the mytholos^ic among the fishing tribes 
of the northwest coast, the fetichistic among the village tribes of 
the interior, the anthropomorphic among the civilized tribes of 
the southwest, and the divinatory especially among the ancient 
Maya race. Different classes are iound in each locality, but one 
class predominates in one region and another in another, so that 
we are never at a loss to decide as to the form which the myth- 
ology has assumed, or to understand the peculiar significance 
which the figures may possess. 

We have given charts and cuts taken from, the works of 
various authors to illustrate these different symbols, but have not 
undertaken to describe them all. Yet the reader can easily dis- 
tinguish between them and readily recognize the peculiarities 
of each cult from the various representations of it which are thus 
offered, the totemic always being the simpler figure, but the 
mythologic and occultic being the more complicated and con- 

4. The transformation of the nature powers into birds and of 
birds into human beings, who were warriors and heroes, was 
also common. There was a reason for using the bird as a sym- 
bol of the nature powers and for making it a myth-bearer, for 
it was very suggestive in its habits and shape of the sky divini- 
ties, and so was likely to be taken as a representative of the 
thunder-cloud, and the personal divinity who made the thunder. 
Various authors have noticed this. 

Dr. Brinton says: "Beyond all others, two subdivisions of 
the animal kingdom have so riveted the attention of men by their 
unusual powers, and enter so frequently into the myths of every 
nation of the globe, that a right understanding of their symbolic 
value is an essential preliminary to a discussion of the divine 
legends. These are the bird and the serpent. We shall not go 
amiss if we seek the reasons for their pre-eminence in the facility 
with which their peculiarities offered sensuous images under 
which to carry the idea of divinity, ever present in the. soul of 
man, ever striving at articulate expression. The bird has the 
incomprehensible power of flight, it floats in the atmosphere, it 
rides on the winds, it soars toward heaven, where dwell the gods; 
its plumage is stained with the hues of the rainbow and the sun- 
set; its song was man's first hint of music; it spurns the clods 
that impede his footsteps and flies proudly over the mountains 
and moors where he toils wearily along. He sees no more 
enviable creation; he conceives the gods and angels must also 
have wings, and pleases himself with the fancy that he, too, some 
day will shake oft this coil of clay and rise on pinions to the 
heavenly mansions. All living beings, say the Eskimos, have 
the faculty of the soul, but especially birds. As messengers 
from the upper world and interpreters of its decrees, the flight 
and the note of the birds have ever been anxiously observed as 



omens of grave import. In Peru and in Mexico there was a 
College of Augurs, corresponding in purpose to the horuspices 
ot ancient Rome, who practiced no other means of divination 
than watching the course and professing to interpret the songs 
of fowls." 

"But the usual meaning of the bird as a symbol looks to a 
different analogy to that which appears in such familiar expres- 
sions as 'the wings of the wind,' 'the flying clouds.' Like the 
wind, the bird sweeps through the aerial spaces, sings in the 
forests, and rustles on its course; like the cloud, it floats in mid- 
air and casts its shadow on the earth; like the lightning, it darts 
from heaven to earth to strike its unsuspecting prey. Therefore 
the Algonkins say that birds always make the winds, that they 

create the water-spouts, 
'•"v^^ and that the clouds are 

the spreading and agita- 
tion of their wings; the 
Navajoes, that at each 
cardinal point stands a 
white swan, who is the 
spirit ot the blasts which 
blow from its dwelling; 
and the Dakotas, that in 
the west is the house of 
Wakinyan, the Flyers, 
the breezes that send the 

"As the symbol of 
these august powers, as 
the messengers of the 
gods, and as the embodiment of departed spirits, no one will be 
surprised if they find the bird figure most prominently in the 
myths of the red race. Sometimes some particular species seem 
to have.been chosen as most befitting those dignified attitudes. 
The great American eagle is the bird beyond all others which is 
chosen to typify supreme control. Its feathers composed the 
war flag of the Creeks, and its images carved in wood, or its 
stuffed skin surmounted their council lodges. None but an 
approved warrior dare wear it among the Cherokees, and the 
Dakotas allowed such an honor only to him who had first touched 
the corpse of the common foe. The Natchez and Arkansas seem 
to have paid it even religious honors, and to have installed it in 
their most sacred shrines; and very clearly it was not so much 
for ornament as for a mark of dignity and a recognized sign of 
worth that its plumes were so highly praised."* 

These remarks are very suggestive, and yet much more might 

I<\g. 10.— Fighting Figures from the Mounds. 

*See Myths of the New World, p. 105. 



be said about the bird as a "myth- bearer." It would seem that 
the aborigines were all very imaginative in their worship, and 
that they looked upon the powers of nature as if they vrere full 
of the activities of the supernatural beings, and so represented 
them under the figures of birds and other active creatures of the 
sky. There is no class of myths which is more expressive 
than the one which has regard to the bird, and none more widely 
distributed than this. The figure of the bird is, in fact, conven- 
tionalized and made to serve as a symbol in every part of the 
land — being drawn in the pictographs of the wild tribes of the 
north, inscribed upon the tablets and gorgets of the Mound- 
builders, painted upon the shields and ornaments of the Cliff- 
dwellers, carved into the stucco tablets of the civilized races and 
placed within their shrines as an object of adoration, and yet 
it always signifies the same thing, namely, the transformation of 
the sky god into a personality which has 
assumed the bird-like shape. Illustra- 
tions of this are abundant, in fact, too 
numerous to even mention, so we select 
from widely scattered regions. Amonp 
the Alaskans the thunder is caused b\ 
an immense bird, whose size darkens th( 
heavens, whose body is a thunder-cloud, 
the flapping of whose wings causes tht 
thunder, and the bolts ot fire which i' 
sends out of its mouth are the lightninc: 
Rev. M. Eells says: "The Twanas and 
some other northwest tribes invest thr 
animal with a two fold character, human 
and bird-like. According to them the 
being is supposed to be a gigantic Indian 
named in the dialects of the various coast tribes, Klamaths, Thlin- 
keets and Tinnehs. He lives in the highest mountains, and his 
food consists of whales. When he wants food he puts on a great 
garment which is made of a bird's head, a pair of very large 
wings, and a feather covering his body, and around his waist he 
has the lightning fish, which slightly resembles the sea horse. 
The animal has a head as sharp as a knife, and a red tongue, 
v/hich makes the fire. He then flies forth, and when he sees a 
whale he darts the lightning fish into its body, which he then 
seizes and carries to his home. Occasionally, however, he strikes 
a tree, and more seldom a man. 

The same thought of the thunder-bird prevails among the 
eastern tribes. According to Mr. J. Walter Fewkes, there were, 
among the Passamaquoddies, men who were able to pass through 
the rocks. They went to their wigwams and put on wings and 
took their bows and arrows and flew over the mountains to the 
south. They could not get home because the bird Woochowsen 

Fig. 11.— Wasco and Yell. 


blew so hard that they could make no progress against it. This 
bird was the north wind, which Glooskap was said to have caught 
and tied. Thus the thunder-bird was here an Indian, as in the 
northwest coast. The lightning from him never strikes one of 
his kind.* The legend of the "thunderers" prevailed among the 
Hurons. The story is that a youth in the forest heard a murmur 
of voices behind him. He turned and saw three men clad in 
strange, cloud-like garments. "Who are you ?" he asked. They 
told hini that they were the thunder, their mission was to keep the 
earth, in order to bring rain, destroy serpents. The great deity, 
Hamen diju, had given them authority to watch over the people 
to see that no harm came to them. They gave him a dress like 
that which they wore, a cloud-like robe, having wings on the 
shoulders, and told him how they were to be moved. They said, 
we will leave the cloud dress with you. Every spring, when we 
return, you can put it on and fly with us to be witness to what 
we do for the good of man. In the spring the thunderers returned 
and he took the robe and flew with them in the clouds over the 
earth. This young man learned from his divine friends the 
secret, which he communicated to two persons in each tribe. 
From' him came the power of making rain, which was trans- 
mitted.! _ , ... 
The Pawnees hold that Tirawa is the great creator, who lives 

up in the sky. Attius lives upon the earth. The wild animals 
are the servants of Attius. They are called Nahumac. They 
personify the various attributes of Attius, but have the power of 
chancring from an animal's shape to that of man. The black 
and the white-headed eagle and the buzzard are the messengers 
of this Attius. The four cardinal points were respected by the 
Pawnees, and so they blow four smokes — first to Attius, then 
to the earth, and last of all to the cardinal points. They sacrifice 
to the thunderer in the spring-time X 

Among the Omahas there was a society which had a peculiar 
regalia. *They cut their hair so as to make it resemble the crow 
and trimmed it with crow-feathers; they blackened their faces, 
and on their backs had white spots, to make them emblematic 
ot the thunder-clouds and their destructive power in their advance 
over the heavens. Even so the warrior, as he approaches his 
enemy, deals his death-darts. 

The thunder bird among the Klamath Indians is the raven, 
but it was able to transform itself into many other animals. 
Gatschet says, the earth (Kaila) is regarded as a mysterious 
shadowy power, who deals out gifts to her children. Her eyes 
are lakes and ponds scattered over the green surface, her breasts 

V^SS^^^'^ C^^^S ^^rS.^ Al^^g^Son the tent. 
$See Journal of American Folklore. Vol. VI, No. 21. 



the hills and hillocks. The rivulets and brooks irrigate the 
valleys. Besides the earth there is the genius of the under 
world (Munatalkni) and the ghosts which represent the souls of 
animals and spirits of mountains, winds and celestial bodies. 
The common belief is that after death the soul travels the path 
of the sun to the west, there joins in the spirit land the in- 
numerable souls which have gone that way before. The shooting 
stars are regarded as the spirits of the great chief whose heart 
can be seen going west, and the polar lights are supposed to 
represent the dance of the dead. The prairie wolf is the animal 
which represents the creator and culture hero of all the tribes of 
the northwest coast. His doleful, human-like cries heard during 
moonlight nights set him up in the esteem of the Indians. He 

Pig. 12 —Bird, Sun and Human Figure. 

appears in sun and moon stories as running a race with the 
clouds. He always attends another person, his shadow going by 
his side, and so is double; but the raven is the chief subject of 
their mythology.* 

The Moquis also have pictographs of a great bird on the rocks 
near their village. In this pictograph is the symbol of the face 
of the sun, also the symbol of the dome of the sky with zigzag 
lightning, four heads of serpents and a frog. And another picto- 
graph of a mythologic bird with feathers like crest, eight small 
circles. This is called Knetugui, the war bird. The god of the 
earth among the Moquis is a god of metamorphosis. He is the 
deity who controls growth.f 

Another good representation of the metamorphic thunder-bird 
is the one which is depicted on the shield of the priest of the 

♦Journal of American Folk-lore. Vol. 5, No. 17. p. iS**- 
t.\merican Anthropologist, Vol. W, No' i, p. 16. 


bow. In this shield we find the human form with the wings 
made from knife-bladed feathers. The lightning serpent beneath 
his feet, the human rainbow spanning like an arch above his 
head, a bear on either side.* The conventionalized terraced cap 
or mask with the feathers crowning the turrets or peaks also 
symbolizes the clouds and the sky and the thunder as does the 

bird itself 

The thunder bird is also seen among the symbols of the ancient 
Mayas. Here it is associated with the cross, which is a symbol 
of the wind, and has many ornaments attached to it, the idea of 
transformation being suggested by the bird being headless. 

The best illustration of the bird as undergoing transformation 
and carrying the semblance of a human being is the one which was 
seen by M. Habel sculptured on the stones in Cosumala-huapa. 
See Fi"-. 12. Here the bird has the flaming sun on his breast, a 
human arm projecting from its side with claws instead of a hand. 
It seems to be a bird of the sky and of the earth and at the same 
time human. No explanation of this figure has been given, yet 
the probability is that it symbolized the transformation of the 
bird into the sun and of the sun into a human being, the sculptor 
retainmg all the symbols, as the combination would the better 
express1:he thought. It was not a mere fancy that led to the 
drawing of a mythologic figure by a native artist, but, on the 
contrary, he was always controlled by a definite purpose and had 
in his mind the myth as it was told. His effort was to make 
the figure as graphic as possible. There came, at last, a conven- 
tionality in the manner of representing a myth, and so the figures 
which are found upon the various relics, such as the shell gorgets 
and copper plates of the Mound-Builders, the shields of the 
Cliff-dwellers and the sculptures of the civilized nations, have 
all the force of a sacred record. They show the progress of 
thought as well as of artistic skill, but at the same time show 
that the same religious conception ot transformation was retained 
through all the changes. 

5. The transformation of the divinity into trees was another 
superstition which prevailed extensively among the aborigines 
of America, spf^cimens of the human tree being found in nearly 
all parts of the country. We may say that no symbol in Amer- 
ica is more interesting than is this, and none that more thor- 
oughly reminds us of the old world stories. These all may be 
mere coincidences, yet the analogies are certainly very striking 
and the figures are the more worthy of close and candid study 
on this account. We would, therefore, call attention to the 
different specimens of human trees. The superstition about the 
tree spirit was very common in Europe and was frequently sym- 
bolized by the early inhabitants, conveying the idea that there 

*In another figure we have the eagle with his wings spread, two serpents, their heads 
toward their wings, and a figure of a bear above the head of the eagle. 



was the same transformation myth there as here. The trans- 
formation myth also existed in Egypt, and was embodied in the 
story of Osiris and Isis and their various adventures, the spirit 
of life hidden in nature being personified in this way. We find 
also in Assyria and Chaldea that the tree of life or the sacred 
grove was set up in their temples, and priests were represented as 
presenting offerings to it as to a divinity. In fact, there is no 
land on either continent where there are not stories concerning 
the tree, and very few places where there is not the same con- 
ception that the tree spirit was a divinity or a personal being. 

We have already spoken of the tree and star contained in the 
Dakota pictograph and its resemblance to the Scandinavian tree 
of life, Igdrasil. There are relics, 
however, which suggest that the hu- 
man spirit was transformed into a tree, 
very much as the spirit of Osiris was 
buried in the pillar of the house of the 
king at Biblos. The Gest tablet is an 
illustration of this. This is made up 
of a variety of symbols, among which 
we may recognize the face and form 
of a man, but hidden in the semblance 
of a tree, the branches of which form 
the legs and arms, the leaves form the 
feet and hands, also the hair, nose 
and mouth, circles form the eye, the 
human face looking out from the net- 
work of leaves and branches as it 
sometimes does in the modern picture 
puzzle. It reminds us of the sacred 
proves or trees which were common ^ „ , 

== 1 /-I 1 1 c ^1. 4. Fig. 13.-Human Tree, Palenque. 

among the Chaldeans ot the east. 

Another tablet has also been discovered, which may perhaps 
embody the same conception, but in a modified form, for the 
lines upon the tablet seem to represent an animal head as hidden 
among the branches of the tree, instead of the human face, 
although the general form of the symbol is retained. 

These various tablets were taken from the mounds in the 
Ohio valley, and so suggest that the superstition about the tree 
spirits prevailed among that mysterious people. A similar fig- 
ure of a tree containing a human face is found in the tablet of 
the cross, at Palenque, usually called "Malar's cross." The pecu- 
liarity of this cross is that its arms are made up of the long 
leave's of corn, each of which, according to the photograph taken 
by Charnay-, contains a human face hidden away among the 
leaves. The standard of the cross is made up of a solid bar, 
which supports on its summit the consecrational form of the 
thunder-bird, but on the bar, at the junction of the arms, there 



is a face with a peculiar bulging eye, and below the face a neck- 
lace with a medallion suspended to it hangs against the standard.* 
Another peculiarity is that two human figures clad in priestly 
robes stand on either side and present their offerings to the bird 
on its summit, exactly as they do in the two other tablets at 
Palenque; the same symbols also cover the bird and the human 
form. This cross was, like all the others, contained in a shrine 
or temple, which was evidently devoted to the worship ot a chief 
divinity, and may properly be regarded as representing the god of 
agriculture of the Mayas. It will be noticed that on the facade 
are two figures; on the head of one (the priest) there are leaves. 

I<H(/. 11,.— Idol and Manitoii Face at Uxmal. 

cones and water plants, and eagle-heads, and that around his 
waist and between his legs a maxtli, or sash, in the form of a 
twisted feather-headed serpent, and that he has the usual bulging 
eye, the symbol of the god ot rain ; while the figure of the warrior 
on the other side, has on his head a crown of feathers, on which 
are figures of the stork, the frog and the fish; in his hand a staff 
made ot waving corn leaves or vines. The study of these differ- 

♦Charnay has given a picture of the cross which shows several human faces in the 
arms of the cross, thus making the idea ot transformation more vivid than that given in the 
engraving by Stephens. Taking the three crosses at Palenque, we find in the one the sym- 
bol of the sun-god, in the other the symbols of the war-god, in this, the third, the symbols 
of the rain-god. The face of the sun looks out from the center of the Saint Andrew's 
Cross. The can be seen on the ends of the arms of the second, and the forms of 
vegetation with the human faces are scattered over the third. Human figures accompany 
the three crosses and the same thunder-bird surmounts the last two. 



ent figures in the shrines of Palcnque, with their symbols, con- 
vinces us that the nature powers were all personified, but that 
their activities were interchangeable, the sun-god, the rain-god 
and the god of agriculture having symbols that were similar. 
This was common, however, among other nations, for in the 
Shintoo religion the goddess of food was also the producer of 

/ tfRuAL moir IMf n. i^ 

J'ly. ii/— C'c?"iCAi((/i LuUc.c - 7/i, 


•j;c^ <j 1-jc ' M,<,.t ^jjiitbuls o/ the Vurdinal Points.* 

trees and the parent of grass, and in the Egyptian religion the 
chief gods, Isis and Osiris, were but the personifications of the 
spirit of life, and every part of the story was suggestive of the 

changes of the seasons. 

*The identifying of the symbols with the points of the compass and with the elements 
and the seasons has been attempted by many writers, l)ut no two of them agree— as may be 
seen from the tables given in the Third Annual Report. Still, the eight hgures on the four 
sides have associated with them hieroglyphics for the cardinal points, and symbols for the 
elements, so that we conclude that they represent the gods who preside over the seasons 
and the feasts which were given to them. It will be further noticed that the hieroglyphics 
for the days of the month, whether for the thirteen days or for the twenty days, were 
also associated with the symbols made up of the human figures, the crosses and the Hints, 
and these were associated with the tree on the codices, showing that the tree, as well as the 
circle and the rectangular chart, was used as a calendar, and in connection with the system 
of divination. Charnay's arrangement for the Mexican calendar was as follows: i. locli- 
tli— Rabbit, blue, earth, south. 2. .\catl— Cane, red, water, east. 3. Tecpatl— Flint, yel- 
low air, north. 4. Calli— House, green, fire, north. Still, GamelH, Duran, Boturini, lor- 
quemado, Orozco V. Berra, Schultz von Sellick all have different arrangements. 



There are many other specimens of the human tree. Among 
these we would place the remarkable finjure which is seen on 
the faQade of the palace at Uxmal. This has baffled explanation, 
though it is sometimes called a Manitou face. See Fig. 14. May 
it not be a combination of the symbol of the sacred tree with 
the human face — the eyes and nose and ears, all of them blended 
with the branches of the tree, the idol, crowned with a nimbus, 
representing the divinity, its position in the house showing that 
it was a household god.* 

Mff. 10.— Idol with Symbols of the Sky and Clouds. 

The best illustration of the use of the tree as a symbol of 
transformation is the one which is found in the codices of the 
ancient Maya and Nahua races. f These codices contain various 
symbols, the cross, the bird, the serpent, the tree, and the 
human figure, all of them arranged differently and having a 
different position or prominence, according as the intent was to 
emphasize one or the other symlDol, the serpent being the most 
prominent in the Borgian codex, the serpent and bird in the 

*Descriptions of the palace have often been given, but no one has thus far given any 
interpretation of this symbol, and yet it corresponds with the many ornaments found on 
the facades of palaces, especially those which contain the projecting hook with rosettes on 
either side, and at the same time corresponds to the trees and crosses and human figures 
contained in the codices of the Mayas. 

tWe have spoken of these codices under the head of the serpent and of the cross. See 
chapter All, p i, and chapter X. 



MSS. Troano, animals and birds in the Vatican, the circle in the 
wheel ot Duran, the cross in the Palenque tablets, and the tree 
in the shape of the cross, with a human figure attached, being 
very prominent in the Cortesian, the Vatican and the Fejevary 
codex. We begin with the Cortesian Codex. Fig. 15. This 
has been explained by Rosny, by Dr. Forschammer, Dr. Cyrus 
Thomas and others, and the following is the analysis of the 
different parts of the chart. The picture presents four divisions: 
I. In the middle of which is a representation of the symbolic tree; 
beneath are the figures of two personages (male and female) 
seated on the ground and facing the Katunes, among which the 
symbol of day is repeated three times. 2. The 
central image is surrounded by a sort of frame 
or belt, in which are the twenty cyclic charac- 
ters of the day calendar (day symbols). 3. In 
the four compartments, four groups, arranged 
according to the order of the cardinal points. 
Two of these figures have a flaming torch, or 
possibly an incense vase in their hands. Two 
others seem to be attending a sacrifice in which 
a human victim is offered on an altar; two others 
are seated in a temple (Calli), on which are the 
symbols of a cross, and ^t wo others are facing a 
figure resembling a bound mummy, the signifi- 
cance of which is unknown. 4. At the outside 
of the picture are the rows ot dots which run 
along the borders, also day characters, which are 
grouped together at the corners, making, per- 
haps, a record of the feasts, or a chart of certain 
ceremonies, or a calendar system of the year and 
the days.* 

As to the meaning of the tree in these codices ^'Vow^SS;!^"' 
and on the tablets, we n.ay say that it was the 
tree of life as much to the Mayas and Nahuas as the ash-tree 
(Igdrasil) was to the Scandinavians, or the sacred grove (Ashur- 
rah) was to the Babylonians, or the tree in the Garden of Eden 
was to the Hebrews. As to its origin, there are great differ- 
ences of opinion, some supposing that it was the mere outgrowth 
of the nature worship which prevailed, and others ascribing it 
to the result of a prehistoric contact with the eastern continent. 
It is remarkable, however, that the same symbols of the serpent 
and the human form are so intimately connected with it, and 
that the significance of the tree should be so similar. We are 

*That the tree was used as a calendar, as well as the sun-circle and the serpent symbol. 
is evident from examination of this chart, with its various time marks and day symbols. The 
five hieroglyphics on each of the four sides denote the secular month of twenty days, 
which was divided into four weeks of five days each. The ten hieroglyphics in the corners 
with the dots denote the sacred ;year, which was made up of twenty months of thirteen 
days each, as there are twenty symbols denoting thirteen days, which equal 260 days. The 
Fejevary Cedex is arranged also in squares and loops, with four trees in the squares, with 
twenty hieroglyphics in the corners, whicfi, with the dots between, make 260 as berore. 



to remember that there was an extensive calendar system and 
an elaborate system of divination connected with the tree, as 
with the circle and other symbols, the system of occultism hav- 
ing prevailed as well as in the east, and even a similar resort 
to caves having^ been common. 

6. The transformation cult was also embodied in human fig- 
ures, especially those which are in combination with tree figures. 
In reference to the human figures in this chart, no explanation 
has been given, yet some of the old aulhors, such as Veytia and 
Gemelli and Gomara, have thrown out hints which help us to 
solve the problem. These authors speak, of the four symbols, 

the flint, Tecpatl; the house, Calli; the 
rabbit, Tochtli; the reed, Acatl, and say 
these are allegories by which they set forth 
the four elements which are understood to 
be the origin of all things, the torch sym- 
bolizing the fire; the house the element of 
earth; the rabbit, or mummy bound, the 
lir; the reed, water. It is to be noted 
hat most of the old calendars were ar- 
ranged in squares or in circles to represent 
ihe cycles of the days, years and months, 
and the four divisions were the symbols of 
the four seasons that made up the year. 
Having found an analogy between the sea- 
sons and the elements, they would carry 
the similitude to the age of fifty-two years, 
as well as to the elements, making the same 
svmbols in their combination represent the 
divinities, Tochtli being dedicated to the 
god of fire, Acatl to the god of water, 
Tecpatl to the god of air, and Calli to the 
god of earth. Thus the symbol of the tree 
became the center of a mass of symbolism 
which was very expressive of the events of 
the national history and of the fundamental 
points in their cosmogony and in their re- 
ligious systems. The same is also true 
of the other codices, such as the Fejevary 
and the Vatican. In these the tree is re- 
peated four times, each time having a differ- 
ent color, the blanches of the tree being loaded down with 
fruits and flowers of different colors, the trunk being grasped by 
a human figure in a novel attitude. 

Secret rites were celebrated in Central America which had 
transformation as their chief element. These were held in cav- 
erns or subterranean "temples." The intimate meaning of the 
cave cult was the worship of the earth. The cave god, the heart 
of the hills, really typified the earth, the soil from whose dark 

I'Uiluc, liain God. 



recesses flow the limpid streams and spring the tender shoots / 
the full plants as well as the great trees. The cave god was the 
patron of the third day, also lord of animals, the transformation 
into which was the test of his power. Tlaloc, god ot the moun- 
tains and the rains, was represented by the symbol of a snake 

doubled and twisted on itself, carrying his 
medicine bag, his robe marked with the sign 
of the cross, to show that he was lord of 
the four winds and of life. 

In Southern Mexico and Central America 
the trees seen near the villages are regard- 
ed as the protecting genius of the town. 
Sacred trees were familiar to the old Mex- 
ican race. They are said to have represented 
the gods of woods and waters. In the 
ancient mythology the tree of life is repre- 
sented by four branches, each sacred to one 
of the four cardinal points. The conven- 
tionalized form of this tree in the Mexican 
Fig. i9-T7aioc,ihe Aztec figurative paintings rescmbles a cross. 

Neptune. j^ Alaska, according to Niblack, the wind 

spirit, who causes the changes in the weather, is represented by a 
figure which has the ears of a bear and the face of a man. On the 
right and left are the feet, which symbolize the long streaming 
clouds. Above are the wings, and on each side are the different 
winds, each designated by an eye, and by patches of cirrus clouds. 
The rain is indicated by the tears which spring from the eyes of 
Tkul, the wind spirit. The best illustration of these mythologic 
changes is the one given by the Haida myths. The story is that 
there was a war between the raven and 
the thunder-bird. In order to overcome 
his enemy, the raven let all kinds of ani- 
mals go into the whale, and they went 
to the land of the thunder-bird. When 
this bird saw the whale, he sent out his 
youngest son to catch it, but he was un- 
able to lift it. He stuck to the gum that 
was on the whale, and the animals killed 

This same use of the human figure as 
a symbol of the clouds and winds and 
sky is also illustrated by the idols which 
are common among the ancient Hopi or 
Moquis. In these the feather is i\^eFHg.2o.-Quetzacoati, Air God 

1 1 r 1 1 1 1 • 1 Of the Mayas. 

symbol of the cloud; the stripes on the 

face and form are the symbols of the sky; the terraced head- 
dress is also a symbol of the houses above the sky; the arches 
are also symbols^of the arches of the sky. See Fig. 17. 



The same conception is also represented by the vase described 
by Dr. Hamy, Charnay and others, and by the idol described 
by M.Biart and several others. The vase was found by Char- 
nay at Tennepanco, and the idol at Oazaca, Mexico, and is now 
in the Trocadero Museum. Both represent Tlaloc, the god of 
■ rain, who was always accompanied by the god of air. This 
represents the rain god as furnished with eyes in the shape of 
sun circles; mouth lips and teeth in the shape of wind circles; 
the whole form containg the various symbols of the nature pow- 
ers. The?e two images as well as the figure on the facade of 
the palace illustrate the prevalence of the transformation cult 
among the ancient Mayas. See Fig. 19. 

The use of a winged human figure to represent the "trans- 
formation myth" is illustrated b}^ the statue which Dr. Hamy 
has described as standing upon the summit of a pyramid at 
Uxmal. This is the statue of Queizacoatl, the air god or sun 
god of the ancient Mayas. He is generally represented as a 
white man, clothed in a garment decorated with crosses and 
wearing a beard. Here, however, his garments as they shake in 
the wind appear like wings, but are covered with crosses, which 
are also symbols of the wind as well as the cardinal points. At 
his feet is the figure of a feather-headed serpent, also having the 
shape of a wing. See Fig. 20. On his head are the four plumes, 
which also represent the winds. The attitude of the god is very 
suggestive, as is the crook or stafl' in his hand, but the human 
face and form are the most expressive of all, for these show that 
he was a personal god as well as a representative of the various 
nature powers. 



The worship of rain as one of the "nature powers" was very 
prevalent throughout the continent of America in pre-historic 
times, and has survived among certain tribes even to the pres- 
ent day. It had its greatest development in the arid regions of 
the interior, and here it still abounds in great force. The sup- 
ply of rain was appreciated in other parts of the country, but 
here it was so much a necessity that the minds of the people 
were constantly exercised about it, and so they made it the one 
element of their religious ceremonies. It is interesting to study 
the cult and see how many methods of expressing the desire lor 
rain were invented, and to notice the manner in which the rain 
was personified and symbolized, and how elaborate the cere- 
monies were which embodied this personification. It appears 
that the rain-god was not only personated, but that all the oper- 
ations of the rain were dramatized and imitated. The other 
nature powers, such as the lightning, the cloud, the colors of 
the sky, the four points of the compass, even the sun and moon 
and stars made made subordinate to this, and yet by their combin- 
ation these set off the supremacy of the rain as a great divinity. 

We propose therefore to take up the various ceremonies, cus- 
toms and symbols which prevailed among the so-called "sky- 
worshipers" of the interior, and especially those which consisted 
in the dramatization of the rain. There is, to be sure, a great 
sameness to these ceremonies and customs as practiced by the 
different tribes, yet the variety is sufficient to warrant a descrip- 
tion of each one in turn, for the repetition is found as significant 
as the variation. The following observations on the rites and 
ceremonies practiced by the aborigines and their significance by 
Mr. William Wells Newell are valuable: i. Tribal, gentile, 
social, religious festivals or dances depend in part on myths 
which are dramatized in the rites. 2. The rites are performed 
by secret societies, possessing initiations in different degrees, 
which constitute what may be called mysteries. 3. Of the ritual, 
some portions are intended to be in public, while others are 
wrapped in secrecy. The manner of the celebration as well as 
the significance of the rites is only comprehended by the initi- 
ated persons. 4. The dance is performed by masked or cos- 
tumed personages, who enact the part of the divine beings whose 
history is recounted in the myths. 5. The actor was origin- 
ally considered to be identical with the being represented. In 


Other words, the god, in his own person appeared on the stage 
and performed his own history, in characteristic representation. 
The ' following also, from Dr. Washington Matthews, on the 
connection between mystery and ceremony, has considerable 
force: "The rite-myth never explains all the symbolism em- 
bodied in the rite, though it may account for all the important 
acts. A primitive and underlying symbolism which probably 
existed previous to the establishment of the rite, remains unex- 
plained by the myth, as though its existence was taken as a 
matter of course and required no explanation. Some explana- 
tion of this foundation symbolism may be found in the "creation" 
and "migration" myths, or in other early legends of the tribe, but 
something remains unexplained even by these. The wearing of 
masks, however, seems to have had but one significance. The 
person who wears the mask of a gcd, and personates him, is, for 
the time being, actually that god. The rain ceremonies gen- 

Plg^ 1,— Medicine Bowl ivith Rain Symbol. 

erally consisted in a dramatization of the rain, under the figure 
of an immense snake, who is supposed to represent the rain-god 
and his efficiency in bringing the needed supply of water, as 
well as his influence over the different crops. The drama, how- 
ever, combined the migration myth and the creation myth with 
the popular conception ot the source of the rain, and these made 
the variation in the ceremonies almost equal to the myths which 
were embodied in them." 

I. One of the most interesting of the dramas is that which is 
called the "screen drama," as the screen bears an important part 
in it. A description of this ceremony has been given by Dr. 
J. W. Fewkes. It consists mainly in carrying various figures 
or effigies of snakes from the village on the mesas to a pool in 
the valley below and back again to the kivas, thus making them 
represent the rain cloud which rises over the mountains and 
drops its refreshing showers upon the mesas. 

At the beginning of this ceremony, the young men brought 
quantities of sand and placed it in boxes, moistened it, and planted 
in the sand kernels of corn of different colors, yellow, blue, deep 



red, white, black, speckled and pink. After a few days they 
unrolled the screen on which were sun emblems and openings; 
they then took several serpent figures or effigies, placed them 
near the fire. These serpent effigies were made with protruding 
eyes stuffed with seeds, a head made of a gourd, a collar made of 
corn husks and feathers, and a projecting horn on the top of the 
head. The body was hollow and so arranged that the arm of 
the dancers could be thrust into them, and so make them move 
about as if they were alive. A procession was formed in which 
nineteen men. some with trumpets, others bearing the effigies, 
and others with pipes and a slow match and trays of sacred 
meal. These proceed down the mesa to a pool where they place 
the effigies at the edge of the water on the east and north sides, 
and meal and feathers on the west side. 
















Fig. 2.— Rain and Skg Symbol. 

Fig. S.—Zuni SainZand Cloud Symbol. 

After various ceremonies, such as lighting pipes and smoking a 
few puffs to the sun, repeating prayers and trumpeting to the 
water, pouring water, dipping the serpent's heads into the edge 
of the water, sprinkling meal, they again take up the effigies and 
ascend the mesa, go down to the kiva and thrust the struggling 
serpents through the screen which has upon it the sun symbols, 
making the serpent effigies dance to the measure of a song which 
is sung by a chorus. As the serpents were thrust through the 
sun disks in the screen and tsacred meal was placed before them, 
each dipped its head as if eating the meal. The life-like struggle 
of the serpent was imitated in a surprising manner. 

Before the screens were rows of sand cones, in which corn 
plants were inserted, making them resemble rows in a corn field. 
The serpents were made to dance over the cones. These repre- 
sented the rain-god as arising from the water, floating in a cloud 
and hovering over the corn fields. The dances which followed 
carried out the same thought. In these the men called disk-hurl- 
crs came out from the "corn mound" kiva and the "oak mound" 
kiva, and distributed baskets among the spectators. A " kiva 
ehief" planted a small spruce tree in the court and suspended 


upon it?, boughs numerous ornaments, and at its base blue "prayer 
plumes." In the screen the four larger disks were called sun pic- 
tures and the two small ones moon pictures.* The panels on the 
upper part were surrounded with rainbows with lightning between 
each panel. The snake-like figures rising from the clouds are 
thunder bolts; the birds surmounting the conventional clouds 
represent the water birds; two figures in the center represent the 
divinities called sky-gods, or "the heart of the sky;" two fig- 
ures in the outer panels represent the female companions of these 

These were symbolic of the rain-god and his power over the 
winds, but there were many common articles used by the Zunis 
which represented the "world-quarters," rainbow and lightnmg. 
They sometimes decorated garments with the stepped figure, sym- 

Fiff. tt—Zuni Prayer-meal Bowl. 

bolizing the clouds, sometimes with scrolls, which symbolized the 
winds. These scrolls resemble the scrolls and circles made in the 
sands of the desert by the wind driving weed stalks or red 
top grass round and round, for they believe these sand marks are 
the tracks of the whirl-wind-god. They also decorate their 
pottery with circular spaces, which resemble the sun disk, and in 
the spaces draw figures in the form of stepped pyramids and 
other curious designs, always careful to leave open spaces or out- 
lets to each ornament. These "terraces m the sky horizons are 
the mythic" ancient sacred places of the spaces. W^SSi 

The stepped figure was perhaps the consequence of basket 
weaving, but became a symbol to the superstitious people. The 
lifted line of the mountain was a ladder to the regions of the 
sky-gods, which was heralded by the thunder-god at the rising 
and the setting sun, and so afforded a graphic symbol of the 

* No representation of the screen is given bu' the altar of the Mam-zrau Society seen 
in the plate contains the same symbols. See plate taken from Dr. Fevvkes' pamphlet. 


"sacred spaces." The figure when applied to the pottery by the 
supple hand of a Zuni woman, was believed to be endowed with 
a spirit which bore the title of "made being" ior whose ingress 
and exit the encircling lines were left open. 

(i.) The ancient Pueblo medicine jar also contains the symbols 
of the sky-gods and the rain, and other nature powers. There are 
circles and several spaces on this jar, and in these the "ancient 
place" ol the spaces, A; the region of the sky-gods, B; the cloud 
lines C. and the falling rain D. These are combined and de- 
picted to symbolize the storm, which was the object of the 
worship in the ceremonials to which the jar was an appurtenance.* 
See Figs, i, 2 and 3. 

(2.) Another symbol representing the rain, storm, cloud, and 
lightning is very common among the ancient Pueblos. It is 
woven into the garments and painted upon the pottery and is 
prominent in their sand paintings. It consists of three arches 
with a horizontal space below with a zig-zag arrow above, and 
perpendicular lines for the rain. See Fig. 3. 

(3.) The Zuni prayer-meal bowl illustrates this conception. The 
bowl is the emblem of the earth, — "our mother." (Fig. 4.) We 
draw food and drink from it. The rim of the bowl is round, but 
also terraced, as is the horizon, which is terraced with mountains 
whence rise the clouds. The handle of the bowl is also a symbol 
of the rainbow, as it is arched over the terraces and painted with 
the rainbow figure. The two terraces on either side of the 
handle represent the "ancient sacred spaces." The decorations 
of the bowl are significant. As the tadpole frequents the pool in 
spring-time it has been adopted as the symbol of the spring 
rains; the dragon fly hovers over pools in summer, and typifies 
the rains of summer; the frog maturing later symbolizes the 
rains of the later season; the feather-headed serpent also typifies 
the water and the rain. Sometimes the figure of the sacred 
butterfly replaces that of the dragon fly, which symbolizes the 
beneficence of summer, for the Zunis think that the butterflies 
and birds bring the warm season from the land of everlasting 

It is a singular circumstance that a jar or vase has been found 
among the mounds which contains a figure of a plumed serpent 
which is furnished with wings, the lines on the wings being in 
the form of arches and those on the body being in the form of 
terraces or notched passages, the spaces being left open as they 
were on the Zuni pottery. Was this vase a specimen which was 
brought by some wandering Zuni into the Mound-builders' ter- 
ritory, or was it the product of the Mound-builders' skill, mak- 
ing the ornament represent the ancient myths which were ex- 
tant? It would seem as if the figure represented the "water 

*See Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology. 1882 and 1883, article by Frank H. Cash- 
ing, p. 519, also Masks, Heads and Faces, by Ellen R. Emerson, p. 8. 



divinity" or the "rain spirit," though it is the only specimen 
where the serpent, which was always among the Mound-builders 
a water-god, is figured with wings and with step-lines. 

II. A rain ceremony occurs at the initiation of children. There 
was a tradition among the ancient Zunis that their ancestors 
migrated from a distant point, but on their way they were obliged 
to cross a stream, and in crossing the children fell into the stream 
and became transformed into frogs, ducks, water-spiders, snakes 
and butterflies, and were transferred to a kiva which was situ- 
ated under the water in a spirit lake. After their arrival in the 
village, certain supernatural messengers were sent to this village 
under the water, who found that the children were again trans- 

Fig. 5.— Butterfly, Dragonfly and Bird Symbols. 

formed into supernatural beings and had taken upon themselves 
the likeness of the chief divinities of the Zunis.* The children 
were alter that time worshiped as ancestral gods, and were called 
the Koko. They dwell in the depths of the lake, where are 
"waters of everlasting happiness," and are reached only by 
passing through the interior of the mountain by a passageway 
which has four chambers in it. The Koko repeat the prayers 
for rain, making their intercessions to the sun, Ya-totka, and 
by them the plume-sticks are sent to the same great god. The 
offerings of plumes to the sun are so numerous that at night the 
"Sacred Road" can be seen filled with the feathers, for the '"Soul 
of the Plumes" travels over the road just as the soul from the 
body travels from Zuni to the spirit lake. 

*The first divinities were Ko-ye-nie-shi, and Ko-mo-ket-si. They originally were a 
brother and sister, but were afterward transformed into supernatural beings which dwelt 
upon the mountains, the youth into a hideous-looking creature and the maiden into ajbeing 
with snow-white hair (probably personifications of the black storm-cloud and the fleecy 


One of the most important characters in Zuni mythology, is 
called the Koklo, This divinity visited the spirit lake, where 
is the home of the Koko, and entered the kiva and viewed those 
assembled there, but found that the "plumed serpent," whose 
home is in a hot springy, was not there. He accordingly sent 
two of the Koko called Soo-ti-ki, for the plumed serpent Ko-lo- 
wit-si. They soon appeared, for they did not travel upon the 
earth but by the underground waters that passed from the spring 
to the spirit lake. Upon their arrival, the Kak-lo (tribal 
divinity) issued his commands, that certain of the "children-an- 
cestors," whom he designated as the Sa-la-no bi-ya, should go to 
the north, west, south, east, the heavens and the earth, to procure 
cereals for the Zuni, and ordered that the serpent should carry 
these with water to the Zunis. (Ashisi) and tell them what to 
do with the seeds. He then visited the Zunis, instructed the 
people regarding the children-ancestors and told them that the 
boys must be made members of the Koko society. 

Such is the myth which lies at the basis of the ceremony of 
initiation and which explains the different parts of it, but the 
true significance of the drama as a personified account of the 
rain god is better shown by the ceremony itself, for in these the 
actors both personate the gods and the operations of nature in 
the process of rain making. The first actor is the representative 
of the chief god, Koklo, who is the heralder of the coming of 
the plumed serpent. Ko lo-wit-si, and may be regarded as the 
personification of the wind or cloud that advances before a rain 
storm. He arrives at the village and divides his time between 
the kivas which represent the cardinal points, the zenith and the 
naJir, and gives the history of the Koko and the gathering of 
the cereals of the earth. The next actors who arrive upon the 
scene are the impersonators of the Koko, "child ancestors," who 
prepare plume-sticks and get ready for the initiation. After 
them ten men who personate the rain clouds, Koyemeslii, on the 
mountains, pass through the village and inquire for the boys 
who are to be initiated. The Sa-la vio-hi-ya of the north, west, 
south, east, heavens and earth, and a number of younger brothers, 
who are the personators of the cardinal points and the bearers of 
the plumed serpent or rain cloud, also appear on the occasion. 
They wear masks of different colors. Those from the north, 
yellow; from the west, blue; from the south, red; from the east, 
white; earth, black; the heavens, all colors.* These take the 
plumed serpent, which is the emblem of the rain cloud, and is 
accordingly (as stated below) painted black above and with 
white stars below, to the "kiva of the earth," and here leave the 
image. This kiva is already decorated with two serpents which 

*The following is a description of Ko-lo--juit-si. The serpent is made of hide, his 
abdomen is painted white, his back black, and is covered with white stars, the tail end of 
which is held by the priest, who constantly blows through a large shell, making the sound 
which represents the sea monster. 


extend around the inner wall ot the room. At sunrise the actors 
go to this kiva and present to the image, whose head is seen 
projecting through an opening in a side wall, the plumed sticks, 
which symbolize their prayers, and ears of corn, which symbolize 
the objects which they want blessed. 

The ceremonies for the initiation of the children follow this. 
These consist, for the most part, in pouring water through the 
body of the serpent into sacred bowls, and afterward pouring 
different kinds of grain and seed into the blankets, which are 
held before its mouth. Another part of the ceremony is that 
which has regard to the sacredness of fire as well as of rain. In 
this the representatives of the war god sit near the fire altar, 
which is in the center of the kiva, and feed the sacred flames. 
The actors, as they enter the kiva from above, turn a somerset 
over the fire, by placing the head upon a stone slab, which 
stands near the fire, and throwing their feet from the opening of 
the kiva to the floor beyond the fire. They also pass out of the 
kiva by a somerset; placing the head upon the slab, and so go out 
of the opening feet foremost. 

These singular ceremonies are kept alive by certain secret 
societies, some of the members personating the mountain 
divinities, Ko-ye-me-shi, others personating the winds, who are 
the cloud bearers, others personating the divinities of the cardi- 
nal points, still others the thunder-god, and the lightning. Each 
of these societies has a kiva for itself, but the kivas represent the 
different houses of the sky and have symbols which correspond. 

It appears from this ceremony that the cliildren of the Zuni 
were brought to the worship of the rain- god in connection with 
the other nature powers at their very initiation, and that there was 
a supernatural air thrown overall the operations of the rain-cloud, 
which must have impressed them through the remainder of their 
life. It would be impossible for a child to pass through this 
scene, in which the chief members of the tribe were the actors, 
and in which his own relatives and godfathers were engaged, 
without feeling that it was the most sacred event in his life, and 
yet the whole interest was concentrated upon the part which 
the rain-god had in the sacred drama. 

III. The " solstitial" ceremonials of the Zunis also represent 
the worship of the rain- god and dramatize the effect of the rain 
upon the corn crop. These have been described by Dr. J. W. 
Fewkes. He says: Both solstices are marked epochs in the 
Zuni calendar and are celebrated by appropriate ceremonials. 
The sun, at the approach of the summer solstice, is watched with 
care by the priest of the sun, who determines the time by notic- 
ing the light shining at sunrise through a depression in the 
mountains called "the gate of Zuni," across the gnomon or 
sun-post, which projects a few feet above the soil on the plain of 
Zuni. and then announces the time for the rain dances to begin. 


The first of the solstitial rain dances is the most important, but 
it is preceded by a singular ceremony, which is probably designed 
to imitate the effect of the pouring rain, but is really a burlesque 
rather than a serious ceremony. It is called "the ducking of the 
clowns." The clowns are persons who wear peculiar mud-head 
masks and who march single file under the walls of the pueblos. 
While they march the women and girls stand on the roof of the 
pueblo with jars full of water and pour it upon their heads, thus 
completely drenching them. 

There seem to have been three classes of dancers and three 
kinds of dances. The most important were the Koko, who 
were the intercessors for rain. These wore masks with heavy 
beards of horse-hair and carried turtles that were said to have 
been gathered at the sacred lake. They were painted with zig- 
zag markings said to be rain symbols, and had upon their legs 
rattles made of small hoofs and turtle shells. Some of them had 
helmets, on which were figures of the sun and crescents and 
other symbolic devices. These represent the beings called Koko, 
who are supposed to live in some far away region. They 
approach the village a little after sundown and repair to one of 
the kivas; the squaws file up the street with bowls full of food 
and present it at the skylight of the kiva to the hungrj^ Koko 
below. A boy who personified the god of fire accompanied the 
procession. Over his shoulder he carried a quiver and in his 
hand a fiery wand. His breast was ornamented with shell neck- 
laces; he moved the fire wand back and forth as if it were incense. 

Another dance is named from those who bear tablets with three 
upright projections, each ornamented with a feather and gaudily 
painted with figures in the form of crescents and bird'=. Their 
heads were wholly covered with cedar boughs; around the neck 
were strings of shells made of turquoise and coral. These tablets 
were all of them symbolic of the rain-cloud and the lightning.* 

The ceremonials for rain are continued during the month of 
August and culminate in a corn dance, as the corn is now ripening. 
It is followed by a very ancient dance called O-to-na-wey. In 
this Ko-ye-ine-shi [zwcx&nX. builders) appear as clowns carrying a 
great abundance of cedar boughs. The final ceremony was a 
procession of the priests of the bow, who visited the shrines and 
placed prayer plumes in them. Here then we have the rain 
ceremonies in which the sun at the solstices, according to the 
calendar, and the zig-zag lightnings, the fire, various animals and 
birds, objects of nature, cedar boughs and shells were personated, 
all nature being drawn upon; but the effect of the rain was a 
special object of the dramatization. 

IV. The snake dance is the most remarkable of all the rain 
ceremonies. This dance has been often described and its ghastly 

*See Plate. A description of these tablets will be found in the note at the end of this 


scenes depicted, but its significance is poorly understood. It 
was, however, nothing more nor less than a rain ceremony and 
differed from all others only in that live snakes were used instead 
of snake effigies. One ceremony was practiced by the Moquis or 
Hopis at their village by the particular organizations which exist 

The following is a description given by Mrs. Matilda C. Steven- 
son: The "snake dance" is introduced by the male members 
going to the different points of the compass for six days gather- 
ing snakes and depositing them in four vases. On the fifth day 
a sand painting is made on the floor of the kiva; fetiches of the 
cougar and bear are placed near it; the snakes are deposited on 
it and are kept there by the novitiates, who use wands made of 
eagle plumes. The Indians declare that the eagle possesses the 
power to charm the snakes by flying about him and gently 
caressing him with his wings. The out-door ceremony begins 
with the process of placing the live snake in the mouth of the 
novitiate. This is done by the chosen father, who grasps the 
snake and places it before the face of the novitiate and prays 
while he inhales the breath of the snake. After the snake is put 
in his mouth the novitiate dances while an attendant caresses the 
serpent with the eagle plumes. It is the ambition of the men to 
prove their skill in the handling of the snakes, for by this means 
they become the greatest jugglers and arise in the order. This 
ceremony is repeated four days in succession. Afterward an all 
night ceremonial occurs in the kiva for a final initiation of the 
young men — when their power of endurance is taxed to the 

The legend of this people is interesting, but is too long to 
give complete. In the legend the voyage of a young man, a son 
of the high shaman, is described, and his visit to the house of 
the spider woman. He passes fuur sentinels, equidistant from 
one another, each a huge serpent, Vv^ho held his head erect and 
hissed at the youth. He enters into a rocky cavern, where are 
many young men and maidens dressed in white blankets. He 
is led to the house of the "mother of the sun" by the spider 
woman, who lives under the great waters. He separated the 
great waters with his large wand, and made a dry road by which 
he passed to the house. Here he saw all the plume offerings of 
his people to the sun. He was welcomed by the "mother of the 
sun," who told him that the sun would return presently. He 
is startled by a great noise, caused by the sun passing through 
the waters to his house. His descent was through a huge reed. 
Putting a foot on either side of the reed, he descended head 

*The figure of a person descending head foromcst, with feet spread, is common in the 
codices of the Mayas. Mav not this refer to the same legend, or one similar to it, which 
prevailed among this people? 


The spider woman said we will go with the sun to his father's 
house in the east, for the mother's house was in the west. They 
in company with the sun passed under the earth and afterward 
ascended the reed that penetrates the eastern waters, and passed 
over the world and looked down upon his people in Canon de 
Chelly, and could read their hearts and could tell the good from 
the bad. Returning to the earth the youth visited the cavern of 
the snakes and took for his wives the two beautiful daughters. 
On reaching his father's house he told him his adventures. His 
father then said, "we will have a great feast to the snake and 
antelope people in sixteen days." To this feast they invited only 
those good in heart. The snake people came in four delicate 
showers, each shower bringing the people ; the showers were 
however invisible to the Hopitu. On the eighth day the people 
danced, holding green corn stalks in their mouth, but the youth 
was horrified to find that the snake people had been transformed 
into snakes and that one of his wives had also become a snake, 
and their children became snakes. 

The legend of the flute people differs Irom that of the snake 
people, but it is nevertheless the "foundation myth" for a rain 
ceremonial. It celebrates the migration of the flute people and 
their encounter with the snake people and the alliance of the two 
people.* It runs as follows: Lelanguh was the director of 
the flute people. The music of his flute drives away the winter 
and brings the summer rains. He was the director of many 
people, and his insignia of office was the crook Pa-a-ya-a, which 
was symbolic of longevity, to which were attached four rattles 
ornamented with fluffy feathers of the eagle. The rattles were 
used by him when he sang for rain, to water his lands. The 
songs were sung to the rain people of the north, the west, the 
south, the east, the zenith and the nadir. The six songs brought 
the rain, and Lelanguh blew his whistle into the water which 
fell upon the earth, making it bubble, at the same time praying 
for more rain; and the earth was well watered. 

Then follows the story of the migrations of the flute people. 
It appears that these migrations were in obedience to the direc- 
tion of an oracle, which was carried with the people very much 
as the "ark" was by the Israelites in their wanderings and the 
sacred boat among the Egyptians.! This oracle was in the shape 
of a portable altar with a fetich of an ear of corn before it. This 
altar Lelanguh erected upon his advent into this world. The 
corn was trimmed with eagle and parrot plumes and had bits of 

*See Mrs. Stevenson's account; also article by Mr. J. Walter Fewkes in American 

tThis carrying a sacred oracle was a common thing among all the aboriginal tribes. It 
was not always the same thing, but nevertheless served the same purpose. Among the 

was the "sacred box " 


abalone shells and beads of turquoise suspended to it. Wherever 
the people went this oracle was set up. The flute people came 
at last to the home of the snake people and had lour talks with 
them. At last Lelanguh told the director of the snake people 
that he knew "the secret of the rains" and could water the land 
for them. "Well," said he. "if you can command the rain people 
and know the secret of the rains we will be glad to have you 
with us. If you know the secret you and your people must be 
first, I and my people second. If you, indeed, know the secret, 
hasten this rain that our land may be watered." "Wait," said 
Lelanguh, "in eight days I will return to your village, and we 
will go into the kiva." At the end of the eight days the director, 
Lelanguh, returned with two young virgins and a youth, who 
went into the kiva. The virgins and the young man were dressed 
peculiarly, being covered with symbols which showed them to 
be the personators oi the rain cloud. The virgins wore white 
blankets and the lower portion of their faces was painted black, 
a white line across the mouth extending from ear to ear bordered 
the black, symbolizing the rain cloud; their feet and hands were 
colored black; their arms and legs in zig-zag of black, which 
symbolized the lightning. The youth wore a white breech cloth 
and eagle plumes in his hair. These remained in the kiva of 
the snake people, (perhaps as personators of the rain cloud which 
was to come.) On the fifth day the flute people feasted and sang. 
At midnight they had sung four songs, when the rain slowly 
approached. It came not in showers trom the heavens but walked 
over the earth. The waters were invisible to all but Lelanguh. 

The people then painted their bodies and limbs white and put 
on white blankets and breech cloths and followed Lelanguh, who 
was accompanied by the "twin war heroes"* and carried the five 
large wands, or prayer plumes, and advanced to the land of the 
snake people. All the men had sunflowers on their heads and 
carried corn and seeds of melons, beans and peppers. As they 
neared the village the rain began falling around the land of the 
snake people, but not upon it. After the fourth song, the rain 
began falling upon the land of the snake people and the land 
was well watered. The snake people wept for joy. Then Lelan- 
guh gave to the snake director all the cereals that his people had 
brought, and he was greatly pleased and said, "You are indeed 
my father; you have brought us rain; you know the secrets of 
the rains; the land shall be yours." Songs were then sung, on 
alternate years to the west for rain, to the south, the east, the 
zenith and the nadir, and invocations were made to the cougar 
of the north, the bear of the west, the badger of the south, the 
white wolf for the east, the eagle for the heavens, the shrew for 
the earth, to intercede for rain. Different colored corn was depos- 

' »These war gods are common personages among all the Pueblo tribes. 



ited and prayer plumes planted at the points of the compass. The 
plumes carried prayers for all things good. 

Upon leaving the kiva the flute people saw their women 
sitting on the hills around the village. The women wore white 
blankets and the children had white plumes, which were proba- 
bly the symbols of the rain.-cloud. In a little while the land was 
abundant with melons, beans and other vegetation, though noth- 
ing had been planted. In this way the snake people and the 
flute people became allied. The personating of this myth in the 
drama of the flute society takes place every year. In the flute 
drama the flute people and the snake people both appear. 

V. The "snake dance," which occurs at the village of Walpi, 
is more interesting than that which occurs at the Tusayan pueblo, 
which was just been described. This is also a rain ceremonial, 
and is pronounced very ancient by Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, who 

Fig. 0.— Snake Kilt. 

says: "The reason for the whole ceremony lies far back in the 
past, but has become more or less obscured by the progress of 
time." The celebration of the snake dance lasts eight or nine 
days, during which there are various preparations for the cere- 
mony, the preparations being generally symbolic of the rain. 
Among these we may mention: (i.) The making the charmed 
liquid. (2.) Making the sand mosaic or dry painting on the 
floor of the kiva. (3.) The smoking the sacred pipe and the 
distribution of the prayer plumes. (4.) The beginning of the 
snake hunts. (5.) The invocation to the four world-quarters. 
(6.) Introduction of the snake boy and snake girl, who were the 
personators of the rain-cloud. (7.) The snake race, which was a 
race through certain sand paintings which represented the clouds 
and rains, of the different cardinal points. (8.) The washing of the 
snakes. (9.) The snake dance itself In all of these ceremonies 
the dress and decorations were symbolic of the rain-clouds and 
of the falling rain. 

The most interesting of these ceremonies was the race which 
symbolized the passage of the wind through the rain-clouds, 
though the washing of the snakes and the snake dance were the 
most tragic and thrilling in their performance. In this snake 


race there were about forty runners and about eight priests, the 
snake priests and the antelope priests moving in pairs. One part 
of the ceremony consisted in placing the plank in which was the 
si-pa-pu or "place of beginning" on the ground near a shrine, 
each of the actors stamping upon it as they marched by. An- 
other part consisted in the priests taking corn stalks and vines 
in their mouths and marching slowly through platoons of the 
actors. In another part four priests stood. with crooks in their 
hands and with white paint upon their bodies at intervals along 
the trail made of colored meal, over which the actors were to 
run; near the priests were sand paintings which represented the 
rain clouds of the four cardinal points. The runners as they 
passed the priests and went through the symbolic rain clouds, 
were expected to strike the ancient crook, held by the priests. 
All of this ceremony was a dramatization of the history of the 
people and the operations of the rain. 

The decorations of the priests and the symbols resemble that 
which was used in the flute dance, the young man and the virgins 
having exactly the same white garments and black lines upon 
the face and body, but the main difference was that the ancient 
relics which had been used by the Walpi were brought into the 
ceremony. The articles used in connection with the ceremonies 
were symbolic. Among these were (i) "the snake pipe," on which 
was a rain symbol. This was smoked in silence. (2.) The 
eighteen stone implements which were brought up by the ancients 
out of the earth. (3.) The fifteen bent sticks, which were called 
crooks. (4.) The plank, in which was the hole called si-pa-pu, 
through which the ancients ascended. (5.) The plumed prayer 
sticks, which were deposited m the shrines. (6.) The various 
sand paintings or sand altars. These sand paintings were all 
made in the same way. They contained four rows of semi-circles, 
each row having a different color to represent the clouds, with 
zigzag serpents shooting from the clftuds. two of them male and 
two of them female, with black parallel lines to represent the rain. 

(7.) The sand painting referred to above was another symbol. 
This was placed immediately above the plank in which was the 
opening called Si-pa-pu, which symbolized the place of emerg- 
ence for the ancestors of the people. The border of different 
colors was symbolic of the "world quarters." Around the altar 
or sand pictures were fetiches of the animals of the "world quar- 
ters," which faced the figures of the clouds. This opening in the 
floor was suggestive of the creation myth, but the sand paintings 
were suggestive of the sky and the operations of the rain clouds, 
thus making a combination of that which was below and of the 
world above in one symbol. 

(8.) Another article was the "whizzer," which was a thin 
wooden slab, the faces of which were decorated with zigzag 
bands; this was dipped into the charmed liquid of the sacred 


bowl, which symbolized the rain, and rapidly twirled so as to 
imitate the sound of thunder The snakes were not so symbolic 
as the decoration of the priesrs and dancers, though the fact that 
they were carried in the mouths of the dancers and were kept 
from biting by the feathers in the hands of the attendants, made 
them significant perhaps of the lightning and the clouds, being 
controlled by the gods or by those who personated the gods. 

Fig. 7 .—Antelope Priest. 

The decorations of the Zunis and Hopis deserve attention 
in this connection. Many of these were symbolic of the rain. 
They are as follows : 

(i.) The dance kilt. This was a symbolic garment, which 
had a black band with a white border running zig-zag through 
its center, representing the plumed snake, with arrow-shaped 
marks representing the foot-prints oi the duck, and short par- 
allel marks representing foot-prints of the frog, both water ani- 
mals. On either side of this band were two sets of parallel 
bands, representing rainbows. There was a fringe on the kilt 
composed of little triangular metal plates. See Fig. 6. 

(2.) Snake kilts were worn by snake men who carried, in their 


hands, snake-whips made of eagle plumes. The kilt of the 
antelope priest differed from this in that it was a plain woven 
garment, but had a border at either end which was ornamented 
with stepped figures, to symbolize the clouds, zigzag lines to 
represent the lightnings, parallel lines to represent the rain ; an 
embroidered sash was attached to the belt of the antelope priest. 
(3.) The decorations of the priest consisted of white, zigzag 
lines on the legs, arms and body, and the chin was painted black, 
the body a bluish color. He wore a white embroidered dance 
kilt, held in place by a white girdle, and a white feather was tied 
to his scalp lock, a wreath of cotton wood leaves about his head, 
string of beads of shell and of turquois about his neck. He wore 
buckskin anklets and red moccasins, thus making the symbolic 
colors complete. In his right hand he carried a rattle and in his 
left hand he carried a bowl filled with liquor. On his right arm 
was a bundle of cottonwood twigs, in his left a plumed wand.* 
See Fig. 7. 

* A Tusayan ceremony has been described by Mr. A. M. Stephens, in which some novel 
rain symbols appeared. A number of ancient slabs of wood were displayed, on which 
were painted designs which represented the sky divinities under human forms. Some of 
these had faces covered with arches; others had arches and rain symbols upon the skirts 
which cover the body; others had faces surrounded with feathers; still others had a rain 
symbol attended with the phallic symbol, but no faces: one had a single corn plant and no 
rain symbol; one had the human form richly dressed and decorated with many symbols, the 
face surrounded by stepped figures and the rain symbols above the face. These tablets 
were carried in the final dance by about thirty girls who were dressed in white and blue 
tunics, and who also carried a quantity of corn stalks, thus showing that the rain gods 
were personified and worshiped as human beings. The dancers at the close stationed them- 
selves in such a way as to form a horse-shoe. The phallic symbol on these tablets was 
made up from the different parts of the rain symbol, which were skillfully arranged so as to 
make it resemble a phallus. It had a small arch on either side and one above the phallus, 
and lines below representing the rain. See plate. 



The review of aboriginal religions which we have been giving 
has convinced us that there is a large amount of symbolism 
which belongs to prehistoric times, and that there was a geography 
of religion, as well as a history. This position is confirmed by 
the study of the map, for we find that most of the symbols were 
confined to certain limited districts, and were very uncommon 
outside of those districts, thus making certain errand divisions 
which are suggestive of a previous development. The boundaries 
which limit these districts are, perhaps, not quite as definite as 
those which now separate grand political provinces, but they are 
more closely conformed to the physical peculiarities of the con- 
tinent, and more distinctly marked by material barriers, such as 
mountain ranges, forest belts, climatic zones, altitude, and soil, 
all ot which seem to have had an effect upon the condition of 
society, and so upon the form of religion. 

This is a very important point, for it reveals to us the won- 
derful and mysterious law which prevailed in native society, and 
which unconsciously molded all institutions and customs. It 
shows that there was a religious sentiment in the nativ^e mind, 
which could not be hindered by any amount of social pri\-ation, 
and which was not helped by educational privilege, but was 
greatly influenced by natural surroundings. This sentiment was 
constantly pressing upon the native mind, and was calculated to 
bring it out from the lower grades and the darker superstitions 
into a higher life and light. We do not know its source, but 
imagine that the spirit of the Almighty through it is affecting 
human creatures with the spiritual life which is in Him, as in a 
great reservoir, this having a constanttendency to bringuphuman 
thought to a higher level, and to reveal through nature His own 
attributes and being. This does not do away with the doctrine 
that there was a revelation, but, on the other hand, shows that 
there was a necessity for it; and yet it furnishes a key to the 
problem and enables us better to enter into the study of compara- 
tive religions. The review of geography will therefore be appro- 
priate at this time We are to study the subject of ethnographic 
religions, but shall take ancestor worship as one of the series. 

I. Let us take up the map of the continent and etudy out the 
localities in which each form of religion has had its chief de- 
velopment, notice the boundaries within which the symbols have 
be:n discovered, and ask why it was that within such boundaries 


the particular cult should have had its history. That there was 
an evolution of one form of worship out of another, is one of 
the first lessons taught us by the map. If we begin with the 
localities where society was at its lowest stage, and where hu- 
man nature was in its most degraded condition, we shall find each 
form of religion corresponding to the physical surroundings as 
well as to the social status. The process of development, how- 
ever, appears as we go out from one district into another, tor we 
may see that in those localities where society reached a higher 
stage, and where the surroundings were more favorable to human 
growth, there religion partook ot the social status, and itself 
reached a higher grade. We find, then, that we are taking steps 
upward, are following an ascending series, coming out of the 
darkness into the light, out of the uncertain and indefinite 
into the positive and well defined, each geographical district fur- 
nishing not only a new phase of religion, but also one that was 
more highly developed and more complete in its outline. The 
districts in which the different systems have been identified are 
very instructive, for they show that there was a law of correla- 
tion everywhere prevalent, and a conservation of influence every- 
where at work. 

The different religious systems may generally be arranged ac- 
cording to the belts of latitude, and the order of succession may 
be traced from the north to the south, each zone having its own 
particular form of worship as well as its social status, mode of 
life, and grade of development. The figure of a pyramid may 
be employed in the case of aboriginal religions as well as in the 
case of the architectural structures, for these stretch across the 
continent in parallel lines, but arise in successive steps, their ad- 
vance keeping pace with the advance of society. We notice that 
the personal element grows more intense with each successive 
stage, and that that which in the lower stages was a dim and 
shadowy animism, or spirit and demon worship, comes out at 
last in the worship of a divinity whose attributes are entirely 
personal. Monotheism does not seem to have been reached, yet 
there was an approach to it, for the personality of the divinities 
becomes more and more prominent, and the influence of the 
great " culture hero" is at last almost supreme. Personality does 
not belong to ancestor worship alone, for it appears in every local- 
ity, a personal spirit having been ascribed to the rocks and the 
trees, to animals and nondescript creatures, to the various nature 
powers — rain and lightning, wmd, to the heavenly bodies, the 
sun and moon — as well as to the culture heroes and ancestors. 
The lowest stage was found among the Eskimos of the north, 
who feared the demons, and the highest among the Mayas of the 
south, among whom the personal divinity was symbolized. 

The arrangement of the different systems of religion according 
to the belts of latitude is very suggestive; it shows that the 


























■! H 


climate had an effect upon them as well as the soil; the influ- 
ence, perhaps, being first felt by the employment and the mode 
of life; the social status, the religious beliefs and the customs 
being correlated to these. We may take the different zones and 
arrange the tribes or races according to their languages and 
location, but we will find that there are certain centers in which 
the mythology, the symbols and the customs show a certain 
religion as supreme. The following are the systems which have 
been recognized in the symbols, traditions and customs prevalent 
among the aboriginal tribes, and now laid down on the map as 
an approximate geography of the aboriginal religions on the 
continent. There were two or three lines oi development, one 
which followed the east coast, another the west coast and another 
passed down through the central axis. Local tribes had their 
particular forms of worship, but the steps or grades will be rec- 
ognized in the parallels which correspond to the belts of latitude. 
The following is the order: 

I. Shamanism. This was the religion of the fishermen of 
the Arctic regions. It may be regarded as the lowest form, 
though it varied in its character according to the locality and 
tribe. It was a system which prevailed through the entire 
Arctic regions, including Greenland on the east, and Point 
Barrow on the west, and extending down to the Tinneh tribes 
on the Hudson's Bay, and the Aleuts in Alaska. Among the 
Tinnehs and Aleuts it was in the extreme of degredation, the 
myths being full of vulgarity, the customs senseless, and the 
superstitions numerous. Here the shaman was a sort of relig- 
ious juggler or magician, who exercised absolute control over 
the people by means of his arts and pretentions. The people 
themselves were divided mto castes, which were said to have 
originated when all fowls, animals and fish were people. The 
fish were the Chitsah, the birds were Taingees-ah-tsah, and the 
animals Nat-singh.* These were the ancestors of the different 
tribes, as well as their divinities. The shaman had great power 
over these animals. The evil spirits were under his control and 
demons were exorcised by his magic. He seemed to dwell in 
the midst of the supernatural and to have power over all the 
elements, and yet there was always a spirit which was beyond 
his control, which the people recognized as the great ancestor 
of all. This spirit assumed different shapes in different localities 
and had different names given it by different tribes. Some have 
called it the Great Spirit, recognizing monotheism here among 
these darkened and degraded people as they do among the 
hunter tribes and more advanced races of the south. The term 
Great Spirit has been objected to as conveying the wrong idea, 
but it is nevertheless suggestive in this connection, for the Great 
Spirit is always identical with the great ancestor, though the 

*See "Notes on the Tinneh Indians of British America," page 315. 






























character of the ancestor is conformed to the character of the 
people who worshiped it. Some authors maintain that a ben- 
evolent being, who ruled over all and was the great ancestor of 
all, was recognized by even the most degraded tribes. Others 
maintain that there was a type of religion prevalent called heno- 
theibm, and that this has been mistaken for the worship of the 
Great Spirit. Henotheism consists in the exalting of one divin- 
ity above all others, making that one supreme. This divinity 
was often a local one, and became the divinity of a tribe or dis- 
trict, and was unknown beyond the tribe. It was often regarded 
as the tribal ancestor, and so anccrstor worship was introduced by 
it, and yet the henotheistic conception was equally strong where 
ancestor worship did not exist. 

Shamanism was the leligion of the Eskimos. They imagined 
that their ancestral spirit dwelt in the rocks, and that the shamans 
had power to open the door.* The Eskimos of Point Barrow 
have many tales in which a mythical person is described. This 
person is sometimes a dog, sometimes a cruel man called Kagsuk, 
sometimes a woman, sometimes an animal with six or ten legs, 
called Kiliopak, and sometimes a fabulous beast. In Greenland 
the great ancestor of all was a woman called Sedna, a woman 
whose home was in the sea and who had control of the sea ani- 
mals. The legend is that this woman was pushed into the sea; 
she clung to the boat on both sides, but her husband struck her 
with a knife; each time her fingers were transformed to sea 
animals. He killed her and covered her with dog skin, and the 
floodtide took her. Her home is now in the tide. The man 
assumed the shape of a bird, but the woman is the spirit which 
haunts all things. We may say then that ancestor worship began 
even in the midst of shamanism. f 

2. Totemism was the second form of religion. This pre- 
vailed, as we have shown elsewhere, among the hunter, tribes. 
Its chief development was in the district which was bounded by 
the Arctic Circle on the north and the fortieth degree on the 
south, the district in which is Hudson's Bay and the chain of 
the Great Lakes, and which may be called the forest belt of the 
north. Totemism consisted in the worship of ancestors or of an- 
cestral spirits which assumed the form of animals and were 
called by animal names. It was the religion oi the hunters ; 
they always carried with them either the skin, or the skeleton, 
or head, or some part of the animal which they regarded as 
their personal divinity. They also placed the figures of animals, 
either painted or carved, over their houses, near their villages 
and in their cemeteries, and ever lived under the protection of 
these animal ancestors.. It was a mysterious and comolicated 

* We ciH attention to the plates which represent the svmbois found in the Easter 
Islands. These pictoaraphs should he foinpaied to those f.'iind among the Aleuts 
and the Thliniceets of the north, for they convey the idea ihut similar systems pre- 
vailed in both localities. 

tElsquimaux Tales and Songs, in Journal of American Folk Lore, page 132. 


system. It had great sway; we may regard it as the second 
stage through which ancestor worship passed on its way to its 
complete development. 

The symbols of animal worship or totemism convince us that 
the animals were elevated to the position of ancestors and were 
often regarded as the heads of houses, the leaders of the tribes 
and the guardian divinities of the nations. We sometimes find 

Fig. 1. — Bear Idol from the Mounds. 

among them human images, but these are generally mythologic 
creatures which perpetuated tribal myths, or were the representa- 
tives of ancestors, and were recognized as such. The real divini- 
ties were the animals, which were changed to mythologic creatures. 

A specimen of this mythologic totemism can be seen in the 
figure which is presented herewith — a figure which is in itself 
quite mysterious. See Figs, i and 2. This has been described 
by Thomas Wilson. It is an image which has the head of a 
bear, the form of a man, but the symbols of sun worship on the 
form. The image was found in a mound near Newark, Ohio. It 
represents a human form clad in bear's skin, th<^ head being 



brought over the crown and serving as a sort of head-dress after 
the fashion of the lion's skin of Hercules and Alexander. "The 
entire head of the b( ar is on the top of the head of the man, while 
the arms of the man appear inserted within the skin of the fore 
legs of the bear. He holds in his right hand an amputated head. 
The hair of this head is strained tight away from the face and 
drawn together and held at the feet of the statue. The features 

HQ,2.—Bear Idol from /he Mounds— Front View. 

of this face and of that of the image have no resemblance to 
that of the Indian. There are ear ornaments in both figures 
which have resemblance to those from Mexico and Central 
America. In fact all the peculiarities of this figure point to 
such a resemblance." 

We class this image along with mythologic totems, for the 
mask reminds us of those engraved on the shell gorgets and cop- 
per plates from the mounds of Georgia and Tennessee and on the 
so-called Exeter vase found in Nebraska. The bear .--kin and 
head also remind us of the idols found in Nicaragua, in which 
the human figure is covered with the monstrous head of a crocodile 


or snake.* It was an old-world custom for the priest to wear the 
skins of animals when they went to the sacrifice. The medicine 
men in America wore the skins of animals, but this image sug- 
gests the idea that they practiced human sacrifice. 

3. The third stage was sun worship. This prevailed among 
the agricultural tribes of the central and southern states. It was 
the cult of that ancient people called the Mound-builders. It 
also prevailed among the Indian tribes which lived in the same 
region at the time of the discovery. There is evidence that 
ancestor worship prevailed among the sun worshipers, as its 
symbols are mingled with the sun symbols, which are so numer- 
ous. Certain customs which represent it were practiced by the 
living tribes, especially by the Natchez and the Muskogees. 
These rites and ceremonies illustrate the pomt which we have in 
mind. The sun was personified and was worshiped as a person. 
The attributes of the sun divinity were symbolized under the 
semblance of human images or idols, as well as under the form 
of the sun itself. 

The early explorers have described human images as very 
common in the Gulf States. These images were generally found 
in the dead houses or ossuary temples, and were supposed to 
represent the ancestral divinities of the people. The images 
were placed inside of the doors, and not only guarded the bodies 
of the dead, but the treasures of the living, for the dead houses 
were often the places where the treasures and sacred things of 
the people were deposited. 

We furnish a cut to illustrate this point, though the image 
was found on the West India islands. See Fig. 3. It has been 
described by Prof. O. T. Mason. f The carving represents two 
individuals seated on a canopied chair. The chair has a high 
back, ornamented with scrolls and concentric rings. Both indi- 
viduals have embroidered skull caps, resembling the close-fitting 
embroidered caps of the Indians. The legs have bands of em- 
broidered cotton just above the calves, which resemble those 
bands which were common among the Caribs, at the time of the 
discovery. They may have been portraits, for the description 
given of the natives is as follows : Their eyes were encircled 
with paint so as to give them a hideous expression, and bands 
of cotton were bound firmly above and below the muscular parts 
of the arms and legs, so as to cause them to swell to dispropor- 
tionate size. 4! This image was 31 inches in height. 

Another figure, carved from a single log of wood, represents a 
human image resting upon arms as well as legs. There are on 
it earrings, or ornaments, and bands around the arms similar to 
those on the seated images. The length of this is 43 inches. 

*See "Bancroft's Native Races," Vol. IV, page 50. "Nicaragua," Vol. II, page 39. 
f See Smithsonian Report. 18SI, paye 8:^1. See Chap. XII, Figs. 1 and 2, p. 251. 
1 Washington Irving. History ol Columbus. 



The discovery of these images in the West Indies suggests a con- 
nection between the island and the continent in prehistoric times, 
or at least conveys the idea that a similar custom of making idols 
which should represent ancestors, prevailed in both regions. The 

Fiff. 3.— Carved Images from the West Indies, 

distinction of sex among the nature divinities is often shown by 
the idols. The sun and moon were regarded as male and female, 
and all the nature powers were arranged according to sex. The 
mythologies of the aborigines were full of stories with regard 
to the pairing of divinities and with regard to miraculous births. 
These myths were sometimes embodied in the idols. 


We notice that such images were common, especially at the 
south, showing that the southern races were all idolaters, but 
animal figures or totems were more common at the north, sug- 
gesting that the northern races were animal worshipers, the 
difference between the two arising from ethnic causes as well as 
from the influence of environment. Still there is nothing unrea- 
sonable in the theory that both systems were prevalent in all parts 
of the continent, even if they originated in separate centers and 
found their full development in particular districts, for the spread 
of symbolism from one district to another was very natural. If 
we take the different religious cults of the Mississippi Valley, we 
shall find that some of them were purelv local and never went 
beyond the bounds of their first habitat. Others were wide- 
spread and became almost universal. 

4. Sabaeanism, or sky worship, is the fourth form of aborig- 
inal religion which we are to consider. This was also a local 
cult. It found its chief development among the Pueblos of the 
interior. It consisted in the personifying of the nature powers 
and in making them divinities. There was perhaps not as much 
of the element of ancestor worship in this cult as in those which 
we have just considered, yet when we analyze the system and 
study the symbols we shall find that it was not entirely lacking. 
The chief peculiarity of sky worship was. that the sky was a 
house, or ratner made up of a number of houses; the four 
quarters, and the upper heavens or the zenith and the lower earth 
or the nadir, each of them constituting a house or habitation for 
the divinity. The houses all had different colors; that in the 
north was yellow, in the east white, in the south red, in the west 
blue, the upper sky spotted, the lower black.* The houses were 
guarded by animals, each of which had a color corresponding 
with that of the house. 

The divinities of the Pueblos were varied. Some of them 
were represented by rude images in the shape of animals which 
were called fetiches, others by human images, which were really 
idols, but at the same time reminded the people of their ances- 
tors. The symbols of nature worship are peculiar. They rep- 
resent all the nature powers personified, but personified under 
the semblance of animals, birds, serpents and nondescript creat- 

*These are the colors of the houses among the Znnis. The f>-tiches or idols of the 
Zunis were, yellow limestone mountain lions for ihe north, coyotes for ih west, red 
wild cats for the south, white w >lves tor the east, eagles for the upper regions and 
moles for the lower. The human-headed divinity the tutelar god of several of 
the societies, and was the h^ro ot hundreds of lolK-lore tnles His dress consisted of 
the terraced cap representing a dwelling place among the clouds. His w apons are 
the rainbow, the lightning, and the flint knife. His warriors are the mountain lion 
ot the North and of the up;ier regio is. The shield had the image of a whitf bear, 
eagle and two serpents pon it, all of them beings of ihe .skies. Ttie shie ds had 
diflferent colors— red, bine, areen, yellow, white, black. Diff rent symbols were used 
by other tr)b'='s, and the colors difTeri'd, but there was Ihe same conception of per- 
sonal gods ruling the sky. Kee Third Annual Report of Bureau of ;p:thnology. The 
suu itself was a divinity whose beautiful hous.- was under the waters — liis father's 
house in the east, bis mother's house in the west, and he passed under the earth to 
the eastern waters and passed over the world to the western waters. S-e Tucsayan 
Legends, by Matilaa Cox Stevenson. 



ures, the human form apparently being the ruler of them all. 
The forces of nature, however, are represented in this way: The 
lightning by serpents, the thunder by a bird, the sky by a dome, 
the heavens by a turreted figure, the rainbow by a human 
image bent in the form of an arch, the clouds by wmgs furnished 
with feathers resembling knife blades, the water by certain plat- 
forms or rafts, the four quarters of the sky by pertain animals; 


^^ ^h: 




FU/. /(. — Idol from Gautcmala. 

but in the midst of all and ruling over all was the image which 
represented perhaps the human ancestry as well as the priest- 
hood. The idols of the Pueblos were numerous, and were cov- 
ered with the symbols of the active nature powers. While the 
images were silent and motionless the symbols on the images 
always suggest the activities of nature about them. Sometimes 
the faces of the images are obscured by dark bands and white 
lines, to symbolize the clouds and lightning. But the symbols 
of the nature powers are always conspicuous and represent 
action. We may imagine that the divine being is surrounded 
by the elements, but is serene amid them all. The lightnings 


may play, the clouds lower, storms may rage, the rain fall, the 
rainbow appear above the clouds, the turrettedsky may be filled 
with feathery plumes, but a personal divinity controls them all. 
Even the Moquis, a living tribe, have divinities of this kind. The 
god of the surface of the earth is called Ma-cau-a. He is the god 
of death, as well as the god of life, who controls growth. The 
priest who personified him wore a mask with corn husk eyes and 

Fig. 3.— Idol from Gautemala, 

his body was daubed with blood. They have a virgin god called 
Mana, who was the bride of the sun, Dawa, and called the spider 
woman. She wa^ the mother of the war god, Pi-ho-kong. The 
plumed serpent was the rain symbol among the Moquis. The 
coil is a whirlwind symbol ; triangle, a phallic symbol ; the cross, 
a sky or weather symbol ; stairs or steps, cloud symbols ; the 
shield, a star symbol; the suastika, perhaps a fire symbol.* 
5. The fifth form ot aboriginal religion is what we may call 

*.-«ee J. Walter Fewkes on Tnsayan pistoerraphs, American AnthropoJigiM. Vr>). v> 
page 19. Thev have dolls with round fa^e, fre'-ied head, and two hoins, and many 
idols which were personiflcatiui.s of the nature powers. 


hero worship; this prevailed, to a certain degree, among the 
savage tribes of the northwest, such as the Haidahs, but was es- 
pecially manifest among the civilized tribes of the southwest. 
Its chief development was represented in the so-called "culture 
heroes," the law givers, which have made such an impression upon 
the aboriginal literature of the country. There was, however, an 
element of ancestor worship in this hero worship, for many of 
the heroes were transformed from their original characters as law 
makers, into ancestors. We find many sculptured figures in 
Guatemala, which represent culture heroes as ancestors. We 
present here two such figures from Pantaleon, Guatemala. These 
figures have also been described by Prof O. T. Mason. See 
Figs. 4 and 5. The description of this idol is as follows: On the 
head was a turban with banded edge; on the front of the turban 
an arrangement of plumes secured by a double knot; ear-rings, 
gorgets and mask were suspended from a necklace; braided folds 
as of cloth fell from the turban behind the ears, and a medallion 
shaped ear- ring in front of it; from the upper margin arose a 
crest, which curved over toward the front and ended in a tassel. 
The head of the old man in one of them had deep lines on brow 
and cheek; nearly the whole of the ear was taken up with cylin- 
drical ornaments. The head-dress was composed of the body 
of a bird with outstretched wings. In the other head the eyes 
were represented as hanging from their sockets ; the long ears 
were adorned with heavy ornaments; on the top was a small cap, 
jauntily placed to one side. There is upon these images a variety 
of symbolism which is suggestive of sun worship and nature 
worship, but there is a prominence to the human face which con- 
vinces us that human art has worked free from the symbols of 
nature worship into the realm of portraiture. 

We do not know their history, but there is one peculiarity 
about these portraits which is very suggestive, conveying the 
idea that ancestor worship was mingled with the hero worship. 
There is the appearance of great age in some of the idols. This 
may be owing to the fact that a venerable appearance would 
heighten the spirit of devotion and so the idols would be held in 
greater reverence. But it shows that ancestor worship was a 
more elevating influence than either animal or nature worship, 
and that it had even a more sacred character. We call attention 
to the contrast between these figures or idols from Guatemala 
and those which were images of the nature gods in Mexico. In 
the latter the images are covered with the most horrid objects in 
nature, crotalus jaws, serpents' fangs, serpents' tails and rattles, 
the claws of beasts, grinning skulls, horrid looking eyes, muti- 
lated hands, the ensigns of royalty placed upon them as if in 
mockery, the whole figu/e the shape of a cross, making a trav- 
esty of the most sacred symbol of religion. These idols of Gua- 
temala are far more serene and kindly, and show the mild form 


of religion which prevailed among the Mayas. We call them 
portraits rather than idols, for they have a life-like appearance, 
and are free from the symbols with which the idols were 
generally covered. They were not the portraits of the culture 
heroes of the Mayas or the Mexicans, for these culture heroes 
were mainly the personifications of the nature powers, and ex- 
hibit the symbols of these powers in great profusion. 

As to the localities where hero worship has been identified, 
there is scarcely a city in all the region between the city of 
Mexico and Lake Managua where the shrine of some of these 
hero divinities is not found,* and scarcely a tribe which has not 
an immense store of tradition concerning the same. The names 
of the culture heroes differ according to locality and age; yet 
when we come to compare their character and history, we find 
that they were nearly identical. To illustrate: The city of 
Cholula, the capital of the ancient Toltecs, was the city which 
tradition fixes upon as the seat of the worship of the great cul- 
ture hero Quetzaiicoatl dixxd the place where the greatest temple 
to his name was erected. This is the place where the divinity 
found refuge from his fierce enemy Tezcatlapoca, and the place 
where, according to tradition, the " waters of the great deluge 
were stayed." The pyramid of Cholula is the monument which 
commemorates both events. The feather-headed serpent is the 
symbol of the city, and represents the god of air among all the 
nations of Anahuac. From this city his worship extended over 
the whole country. Here was the image of Quetzatlcoatl. It 
was adorned with a mitre, a short, embroidered tunic, a golddn 
collar, the legs enclosed in a garter of tiger skin; a shield hung 
from the left arm. and in the right hand a scepter, which termin- 
ated in a crook like a bishop's crozier. Many of the ancient 
cities of Central America, such as Palenque and Uxmal, also 
had shrines to these culture heroes. This worship of the cul- 
ture heroes was nothing more nor less than a form of American 
paganism, and resembles, both in its highly developed ritual and 
in its elaborate symbolism, and especially in its varied mythol- 
ogy, the paganism of the ancient cities of Greece and Rome and 
of the lands farther east. 

6. This leads us to the sixth form of religion, viz: the worship 
of the elements and the various nature powers. This was one of 
the most important of the ethnographic religions, for it shows to 
what extent the people were accustomed to carry their inven- 
tions, and with what complicated symbols they covered their 
divinities. These were : (i.) The feather-headed serpent, which 
probably represented the rain cloud. (2.) The cross for the four 
parts of the sky. (3.) The circle for the sun. (4.) The eye for 
the rain drop. (5.) The garments for the clouds. (6.) The 

* See p 402, cliapter on Culture Heroes and Deified Kings. 


hair and head-dress for the fire. (7.) The leaves, cones and 
vines for the growing vegetation. (8.) The head or beak of 
birds for the creatures of the sky. (9.) The heads of animals 
for the creatures of the earth, and other symbols for the elements 
— fire, water, earth and sky.* Specimens of these have been 
given in the chapter on " Culture Heroes ; " others in the cuts 
representing the figures described by Habel as portrayed on the 
sculptured tablets of Cosumalhuapa f These tablets are covered 
with a great array of symbols in the form of flaming suns, winged 
circles, human faces with streaming locks, human arms with 
birds' claws, the whole intertwined with serpents and vines, 
death heads, masks made from animals' heads and human heads 
— all of these symbols of the nature powers ; not a single face 
among them which can be recognized as a portrait. These 
tablets evidently represented the nature powers, while the idols 
found at Pantaleon represented the portraits of ancestors. 

Naturism was very prominent among the Mayas, but it was 
also one of the most widespread and powerful religions of 
America. It was well-nigh universal, and might be called the 
religion of the American race. It consisted in the worship of 
the elements — the earth, air, fire and water, the operations of 
nature, such as the wind, rain, lightning, sunshine, water. It 
also filled the world-quarters and the cardinal points with guar- 
dian divinities. It deified the seasons, and made the days, weeks, 
months and years to revolve around a central core, called the 
kernel of the year, and had a calendar of its own separate from 
that which was regulated by the sun. It was, to be sure, a wor- 
ship of the sun and of the cosmic powers, but was also accom- 
panied by a worship of the sky, and gave colors to the different 
parts of the sky, which were sacred to the sky divinities. Vt 
introduced mountain divinities and made sacred the colors 
with which the mountains were covered. It also made known, 
by means of its symbols, the divinities which controlled the 
sea, the air and the earth, fire and water, the seasons, the 
crops, the plants, the animals, the trees, the grain, the epochs 
of creation, the events of history, as well as the destiny of man, 
making all the elements subservient to their power. It gave 
also a local cult to each city, as well as province, each temple 
and shrine having the symbol of the nature powers in the shape 
of crosses and masks and serpents and vines, all of them being 
suggestive not so much of the personal divinities or the culture 
heroes as of the unseen and supernatural beings which were sup- 
posed to inhabit the sky and air and fill the universe with their 
presence. It pervaded all the departments of life having control 
over the different employments, such as agriculture, trade and the 

*See Plates of the Rain-god and Air-god, pp. 414-415; a'so Fig. i, p. 403; also Air- 
god and Rain-god, Fig. 20, p. 279. 

tSee page 271, Fig. 12, and compare with Fig. 5, p. 309. also with those on p. 279, 


various arts. It also ruled over all classes, making them subject 
to the power of the priest as well as the king. It even controlled 
the various events of every individual's history, beginning with 
the earliest period of infancy, going on through the different 
ages of each individual, and gave the control of destiny, of time 
and eternity for every person, into the hands of the priest, who 
personated the gods of nature and who had access to their secrets, 
and controlled even the seasons, as well as the future state. 

Naturism introduced an elaborate system of symbolism — a sys- 
tem which differed entirely from that of hero worship, as it was 
founded altogether on the deifying of the powers of nature and 
presented the cosmic divinities as always present. These sym- 
bols or conventional forms were not confined to one stock or 
race, but seemed to have been adopted by all tribes and races, 
and were understood by all as having about the same significance. 
The rude tribes had mainly animal totems; the mountain tribes 
had more of the symbols of the sky; the Maya tribes had more 
ot the " cosmic symbols". Nature divinities among the former 
were represented under the animal semblance, such as the ser- 
pent, panther, bear, eagle, raven, quetzal, or parrot, and owl, and 
other zoomorphic divinities, but were represented among cer- 
tain tribes under the form of tadpoles, toads, lizards, butter- 
flies, and beetles, as well as snakes. Among the mountain 
tribes the symbols were supposed to represent the storms, the 
clouds, whirlwinds, snow and rain, and mountain divinities. Some 
of these were composed of arches and crosses, parallel lines and 
zigzags, each of which stood for a different element — the arch 
for the sky, the cross for the winds, the zigzags for the light- 
nings, the parallel lines for the falling rain, the stepped figures 
for the mountains, which were supporters of the sky, the feathers 
for the clouds, the suastika for the revolving sky, the scroll for 
the whirlwind, the Jerusalem cross for the water or sea, the 
tortuous line for the rivers, and the bird-tracks for the creatures 
of the sky. 

The "cosmic" symbols among the Mayas represent the epochs 
of the world. These are often combined with "time" symbols of 
months and years and seasons, so that it is difficult to distinguish 
the longer from the shorter period, for they are all mingled 
together in a mass of symbolism and can not be separated and 
scarcely analyzed, but generally they are very common objects 
which are used for the time symbols, such as circles, crosses, 
animal heads, serpents, plants, reeds, grains of corn, flint axes, 
arrows, battle axes, machete, feathers, and occasionally human 
faces, each object having received an arbitrary significance and 
being represented in conventional shape. 

Among all the tribes there were figures which represented 
the motions of the sky and earth and the order of the seasons, 
the very shape of the figures giving to us the idea of revolving 


seasons and the turn which all nature takes, the bend of the 
arms of the cross, or the turn of the scroll, the beak, of the 
birds, the coil of the "serpent, as well as the circles, indicating 
the motion of the sky, so that we have a map of the heavens, 
with its sun and moon, winds, stars, seasons, currents, as well as 
a map of the earth, with its caves, mountains, rivers, and four 
quarters, also its various seasons, all of the movements of the 
universe being plainly represented as in a modern orrerary. 

Different colors were also ascribed to the nature powers and 
the heavenly bodies — the four quarters of the sky, the moun- 
tains, seas, the upper and lower worlds, caves, all having colors 
which were significant. The various objects in nature, which 
have different colors, such as precious stones, shells, turquoise, 
gems, crystals, mosses, leaves, grains of sand, feathers, reeds 
and plants, were used as symbols of the nature divinities, and were 
supposed to have a peculiar charm, especially in the healing of 
disease and in securing the aid of the supernatural gods. There 
were also certain symbols which represented spiritual things — 
the feathers arranged upon a staff, called Pahos, were prayers 
which were materialized.* The sacred tree stood for the 
spirit of life or the soul; the serpent stood at times for the spirit 
of evil, the malignant spirit; the arrow also stood for prayer 
which penetrated the sky; the vine with nodes upon it stood for 
speech or prayer which reached the ear of divinity. There were 
symbols also to represent the state of the soul, a passage through 
the mountain for the journey of the soul; shrines in the moun- 
tains for the resting place of the soul ; the clouds and the turreted 
hills, which were the sacred spaces in the sky, or the city beneath 
the water, which formed the home of the soul. 

*rhe use of feathers as prayer symbols was common with nearly all of the aboriginal 
tribes, but was especially common among the Tusayans. They are explained by Mr. J. W. 
Fewkes in his pamphlet called "Tusayan New Fire Ceremony," reprint from the proceed- 
ings of the Boston Society of Natural History. Every breath moves them, and so 
they are the symbol of the breath of the body and the breathing of the soul in 
prayer. As the sun travels across the sky he sees the Paho in the shrine, places them in 
his girdle and carries them to his western home, and distributes them to the world-quarter 
chiefs. These world querter chiefs are the same as divinities or cloud chiefs; their servants 
arc the six plumed snakes, all of which are addressed in the prayers. In warrior societv 
celebrations game gods are addressed. Altars and shrines were also the symbols of 
the meeting place ofDivinity and the soul. These with the Tusayans were of three kinds, 
(i.) Cloud Charm altar with a medicine bowl at the junction of the six lines, and ears of 
corn at the ends of the lines. (2.) Sand-painting altars with fire slabs. (3.) Symbolic 
figures made in meal used in the flute ceremonial foot races. Keredores is a term used to 
represent tlie upright frame work back of the sand pictures. 



We have now passed over the different ethnographic reHgions 
and have spoken of the districts in which they predominated as 
local cults, and the symbols which embodied them. In giving 
this geography of religion and of mythology, we would not 
be understood as claiming that the various forms of religion 
were confined to the districts mentioned, or even that they pre- 
dominated to the exclusion of all others, for many forms of 
religion prevailed in all parts of the continent, and the sym- 
bols and the myths which served as drapery to them were also 
widely distributed. There was, to be sure, a striking correlation 
between each form of religion and its environment, the mythol- 
ogy always partaking of the material surroundings, and the 
symbols also being affected by them; but there was nevertheless 
a common basis for them. These all reveal the force of the 
religious sentiment which prevailed among a people who were 
so remote from the ordinary fountains of thought and the sources 
of religious influence. They prove that man is naturally relig- 
ious: and if he is not furnished with a religion, he will make 
one for himself and will gather inspiration from the works of 
nature about him. 

There was one form of religion we have not touched upon, a 
foim which brought in the element of personality and gave to the 
symbols a new significance and introduced others, so that we have 
in it|an entirely different set of myths and a distinct system of sym- 
bolism. To this religion we have given the name of Anthromor- 
phism. The term is derived from two Greek words, atithropos^ 
"man," and viorplia, "shape." It means the representation of a 
deity in human form and with human attributes. This is the 
type of religion to which we shall invite attention. 

I. Let us consider the character of anthropomorphism as it 
existed in America. It was one of the prominent ethnographic 
and religious systems in the world, but had a greater influence 
here than anywhere else. It was prevalent throughout the con- 
tinent, though its highest development was among the semi- 
civilized races of the southwest, where the symbolism reached 
its highest perfection. It was also prevalent throughout the 

* The Mide charts and songs of tlic Ojihwas and the sand-paintings and mountain 
chants of the Navajos furnish us with illustrations in this chapter: but tlie idols of Mexico 
and many of the sculptured figures of the Mayas are nothing more nor less than images of 
anthropomorphic divinities. 


eastern continent and was there among the highest types of 
religion, only one higher form having been reached by the pagan 
nations, viz.: monotheism. It was, in fact, the connecting link 
between the prehistoric and historic religions, and was one of 
the most familiar types among the ancient nations. There was, 
to be sure, often connected with it a degraded system of idolatry, 
which receives condemnation from enlightened consciences ; but 
notwithstanding this it resulted in a view of the personality of 
God, which, upon the whole, was a benefit to mankind. This 
only shows how the human mind works in the matter of relig- 
ion, for it rises at one time to the greatest heights, but at another 
falls into the most debased and degraded condition, but some- 
how the religious sentiment advances with each movement, heav- 
ing in tide waves the thought of man to a higher stage, where the 
truth seems to be better apprehended. This is illustrated beau- 
tifully in America, for here the aboriginal mind worked accord- 
ing to its own laws and forces, without the influence of the 
historic faiths and without the aid of revelation ; and yet it 
seemed to have come with each advancing type nearer and nearer 
to the apprehension that there was one supreme and personal 
God. The type of religion which we called anthropomorphism 
is removed but one step from this conception, and was itself in 
the process of growth. 

The natives of America were, some of them, bad enough in 
their practices. They were full of cruelty, and some of them 
were carried to extreme frenzy; the dog-eating shaman, among the 
Thlinkeets, would take the live dog in his hands, and while fol- 
lowed by others as crazy as himself would tear it to pieces with 
his teeth; the Eskimo in his hut would tell tales of the bestial 
indulgence and cruelty of Sedna, his female divinity of the 
seas; the Thlinkeets would repeat the myths of the strange 
amours of Ne-kilt-luss, the great creator, and represent the an- 
cestors of the race as coming from the cockle-shells upon the 
shore; the Navajo would tell about the hermaphrodite which 
was born out of the union of the clouds and the sky on the 
mountains, having no semblance except that of the dark storm 
cloud and the fleecy cloud combined; the Zuni Indian would 
tell the story of creation, and say that the creator lifted the sun 
and sky from the earth, and was to be worshiped under the 
semblance of the feather-headed serpent; the Aztec would re- 
peat his myths about the god of war, death and hell, and fill 
temples with the images or idols which were covered with the 
ghastly array of skulls; and even the Maya devotee would 
erect the image of the serpent, with open mouth and protruding 
tongue, and worship this mask as the embodiment of his divin- 
ity; still, notwithstanding all these cruel practices and degraded 
customs, the conception of god was constantly rising. The habit 
of ascribing human attributes to the divinity was only one evi- 


dence that progress was being made toward the truth. We may 
regard then this habit of clothing the divinity in the drapery ot 
the human face and form as a positive aid to devotion, for it 
enabled the people to conceive of God as a personal being, and 
to represent him not only as a national divinity, but as one who 
ruled all nations and peoples. 

We do not find in America any such conception of a holy being 
as is contained in the Scriptures; nor do we find the thought of 
one true and living God ruling over all thmgs, but so far as 
symbols and myths could express it we may say that the con- 
ception of God as a personal being, having personal feelings 
and bearing a human semblance, was similar to that which was 
common among the nations of the east and that which may be 
easily recognized in the language of the word of God. To the 
benighted and belated sons of men who inhabited this continent, 
anthropomorphism was a great boon, for it brought them to a 
higher conception of God than the mere nature worship ever 
could have done. Though there was no Moses among them 
who could go up the mountain's height and talk face to face 
with God, nor was there any gift of law, revelation, or religion, 
yet those who worshiped the humanized personal divinities were 
much nearer the truth than those who either worshiped animals, 
or ancestors, or even culture heroes, for they had a view of his 
personal attributes and were on the way to apprehend the unity 
of God and his sovereignty over all creatures. 

II. Let us turn to anthropomorphism as found among the 
wild tribes. There were different phases which anthropomorphism 
assumed in the various parts of the continent. Its chief devel- 
opement was in Gautemala and among the ancient Mayas, but it 
also prevailed among the lower and ruder tribes, though it was 
here associated with animal worship and totemism, the zoomor- 
phic and anthropomorphic divinities being strangely mingled in 
their pantheon. It is a matter of surprise that so much of the 
advanced forms of anthropomorphism existed among the rude and 
savage tribes, and that even the gods of the world-quarters were 
so frequently represented as personal beings which bore the 
human semblance. The majority of them were, to be sure, 
zoomorphic, as would be natural with the totemistic tribes; but 
there were many divinities among them which had the human 
semblance, for we find everywhere pictographs, rock inscriptions, 
inscribed shells, carved relics and masks, as well as idols, contain- 
ing the human semblance.* There are also many charts which 
contain human figures or faces, and the chief divinities are rep- 
resented in this way, but the subordinate divinities under the 

* Here we would speak about the human hand, which has been recognized ag an orna- 
ment on the pottery and in the shells of the Mound-builders. This is different from the 
human face and form, and yet it was expressive of the same thought, and was a very wide- 
spread symbol. 


animal semblance. There were also dances and feasts among 
the wild tribes in which the individuals personated the divinities, 
sometimes imitating the animals which they worshiped and 
mimicking their motions; sometimes the birds; sometimes the 
nature powers; sometimes the motions of the serpent, which 
which was the symbol of the seasons, especially spring, at its 
appearance after the long bondage of winter. The highest style 
of dramatization was that in which the supernatural powers were 
represented as personal beings. Moreover, the gods who repre- 
sented the four elements, and who ruled the world quarters and 
bore the sacred colors, assumed the human form for the sake of 
conversing with their devotees, though they were capable of 
transforming themselves into any shape. 

We can not look upon these different manifestations without 
believing that the personality was an element in the divine being 
even in the minds of the untrained savages, and that all the 
mysteries which were celebrated had regard to this element. 
Some believe that the future state of the soul was often in the 
minds of the initiates, and that much of the symbolism brought 
out the thought of the unseen world, for the religious customs 
which were practiced at the burial of the dead were in ac- 
cord with this. The spirits of the departed were regarded as 
still in existence, and food must be placed within the grave, or 
in the house which was placed over the grave, and articles 
for use within the grave. Moreover, the myths and symbols 
which were perpetuated by the sacred mysteries bring out the 
thought that an unseen spirit, who was perhaps equivalent to the 
Supreme Being and Great Spirit, directed the mysteries and de- 
signed to bestow gifts upon the people. There are many illus- 
trations of this among the different tribes, for there are charts 
and symbols, as well as myths and traditions, which perpetuate 
the religious views of the aborigines. Some of these seem to 
have been affected by the views which were brought in by the 
white man, but others are purely aboriginal. The best illustra- 
tion is that which is found among the Ojibwas, an Algonkin tribe 
which still dwells on the borders of Lake Superior and the 
head waters of the Mississippi River. The following is a sum- 
mary of their beliefs: The chief or superior manito is termed 
Kitshi Manido, approaching to the idea of the God of the Chris- 
tian religion. The second in importance is Dzhe Manido, a 
benign being, upon whom they look as a guardian spirit or good 
spirit. Another is called Dzhibai Manido, shadow spirit, or 
ghost spirit, for he rules the place of shadows. Aside from 
these, there was the chief animal spirit, who is supposed to be 
the national god and culture hero, represented as the giant rab- 
bit, called Minabozho, who was subordinate to the Kitshi Manido, 
but was the means by which his gifts came to the people. Op- 
posite to these various divinities, but subordinate to them, were 


certain evil or malignant spirits, which assume the shape of ser- 
pents and bears and birds. 

The manner of securing supernatural gifts and favor with the 
Kitchi Manido was by passing through the four degrees of the 
sacred mysteries. These were guarded by certain malignant 
spirits who assumed the shapes of serpents, bears and panthers, 
and who opposed the passage of a candidate into the sacred 
lodge, where he would receive the gift of immortality. These 
were, however, under the control of the good spirit, and opened 
the passage into the lodge at his command. When the candi- 
date passes into the second degree he receives from Dzhe 
Manido eyes to look into futurity ; ears that can hear a great 
distance; hands that can touch those which are remote; feet 
which can traverse all space. When he has passed to the fourth 
degree he is able to accomplish the greatest fetes in magic, and 
to read the thoughts and intents of others. His path is beset 
with dangers and points to which he may deviate from the true 
course of propriety ; but at the end of the world his soul is 
permitted to pass from the Mide-wigan to the land of the setting 
sun, the place of the dead, upon the road ot the dead. An 
illustration of these different points will be found in the charts 
which perpetuate the Mide songs of the Ojibwas,* which have 
been preserved as very sacred, and which represent the ancient 
mysteries, still so sacred among them. 

We shall call attention to these charts, for they are the "sacred 
books" of the Ojibwas and perpetuate the sacred songs, or the 
Mide songs, exactly as the sand-paintings do among the Navajos 
and the codices do among the Mayas. What is most remarka- 
ble about the charts is that they represent about the same 
fundamental truths or beliefs as those contained in the sacred 
books of the east, and like them are given in poetical language 
and were attended by songs that were designed as interpretations. 
They are, in fact, the Vedas of this aboriginal tribe, and repre- 
sent the religion as well as the literature of this people. 

Nearly all of these charts begin with the story of creation 
and end in the passage of the soul into the sacred lodge in the 
heavenly spaces, but represent the processes by which the can- 
didate is. to appease the great divinity, who is unseen, but who 
has revealed these m.ysteries to the people. The interpretation 
of the chart reveals the fict that there was a foundation niyth 
which prevailed among all the tribes of the Mississippi Valley, 
and, with variations, appeared among the tribes of the interior, 

♦Schoolcraft says: The North American Indians have two terms for their pictoffraphs 
— Kekeewin, such things as are generally understood by the trihe; Kekeenoxym lor tlie 
teachings of the Mides or priests. The knowledge of the latter is chicHy conhned to per- 
sons who are versed in tlieir system of magic medicine or their religion, and may be termed 
hieratic. The former consists of figurative signs, such as are employed at places of sepul- 
ture or hunting or traveling parties. It is also employed in the rock writings, mez/inabiks. 
Many of the figures are common to both. This results from the figure of the alphab et be 
ing precisely the same, but the devices of the medicine (Wabenoi, hunting and war s on? 
are Known solely to the initiates, who have learned them. 



and even may be recognized among the more civilized tribes of 
the southwest. Let us first take the chart furnished by Henry 

It begins with the picture of a bird under an arch (No. i). This repre- 
sents the medicine lodge hlled with the presence of the Great Spirit. 
(2.) Next is the candidate for admission, holding the pouch from which the 
wind IS gushing out. (3) A man holdmg a dish in his hand. (4.) Next a 
lodge in which the Mide men are assembled. (5.) Next the arm of the 
priest. (8.) The Mide tree, or the tree of life. (9.) The crane, which is the 
totem o' the tribe. (10 ) An arrow, which penetrates the entire circle of the 
sky. (11.) A small hawk, which is capable of flying high into the sky. 
(12.) The sky, with the Great Spirit looking over it, a suplicating arm inside 
of it. (13.) A pause. (14.) Wabeno tree. (15.) A drumstick. (16.) The 
sun pursuing his course untd noen. (17.) The Great Spirit, filling all space 
with its beams. (18-19.) A drum and tambourine, (20-21.) The raven and 
crow, symbols of the nature powers. (22.) A medicine lodge and the 
master, holding in his hands the clouds. 

Let us next take the one given by Dr. W. J. Hoffman, and 
the myth or legend which is attached to this. It is as follows : 
Minabozho, the great rabbit, was the servant of Dzhe Manido, 

Chart of the "Mide Wigan," or Sacred Lodge 

the good spirit, and acted in the capacity of ancestor and mediator 
and was the friend of the Indians. He looked down upon the 
earth and beheld the ancestors of the Ojibwas occupying the 
four quarters of the earth, and saw how helpless they were. The 
place where he descended was an island in the middle of a large 
body of water. He instructed the otter, whose home was in the 
water. Here he built a sacred Mide lodge, "Mide Wigan," and 
took the otter into the "Mide Wigan" and shot the sacred migis 
into his body that he might have immortal life.* This is the 
myth. The following is the chart which embodied it: 

The circle with the four projections (Nos. i, 2, 3, 4) represents the world 
at creation, with the four quarters inhabited by the people (Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8). 
The two oblong squares (Nos. 11-12) represent the lodge guarded by two 
malignant manidos(Nos. 9-10). Four human forms (Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16) rep- 
resent the four officiating priests. Cedar trees are represented by Nos. 17, 
18, 19. Nos. 21 and 22 represent a bear spirit. Nos. 23 and 24 represent a 
sacred drum. Nos. 28 and 29 represent the entrance of the first and second 
degrees. Nos. 30-34 represent the five serpent spirits who oppose the prog- 
ress, one of which raises its body to form an arch for the candidate to pass 

*The "niigis" is considered the sacred symbol of the Mide Wigan," and may consist of 
any small white shell, 


under. Nos. 35-47 represent the four malignant bear spirits. Nos. 37-38 
represent the door of the lodge. Nos. 39-45 represent the seven Mide 
oriests. No. 48 the candidate receiving supernatural powers. No. 50 the 
Bad Mide. No. 53, the third degree, Nos. 61-67, the Mide spirits who in- 
habit this degree. Nos. 59-60, the bear spirits. Nos. 69-80, the fourth de- 
gree. Nos. 81-84, 88-96, malignant animal spirits. No. 99, the angular 
pathway. No. loi, the end of the road. Above the fourth degree (i lo-i 14) 
are the ghost lodge and the path of the dead. No. 113, the owl, which 
represents the sou passing from the Mide Wigan or ghost lodge to the land 
of the setting sun. 

It would appear from this chart that even the savages had a 
conception of a supreme being and creator, of a mediator, of an 
evil spirit and of a divine or supernatural gift which came in 
answer to offerings and prayer. They had also a view of a future 
state and the passage of the soul after death into the sacred abodes, 
which was not derived from the white man, but was aboriginal 
and was perpetuated by the medicine men from generation to 
generation. This conception accompanied the worship of anthro- 
pomorphic divinities far more than that of the animal divinities. 
The Ojibwas were not the only tribes which had charts and 
symbols in which the human face and form were used to repres- 
ent the personality of God and the super-natural being. The 
Dakotas, Omahas, Ponkas, Winnebagos and Pawness all used 
the same semblance. These tribes combined them with the sym- 
bols of the nature powers, such as the lightning, water, air and 
wind, in such a way that the human features could hardly be 
recognized; yet when we come to understand the symbols we 
see that the human semblances are given to the nature powers, 
and that human attributes are ascribed to the supreme divinities, 
the animal gods being subject to these, though they acted as 
guardians to the sacred mysteries. 

III. This brings us to the "mountain divinities," which were 
worshiped by the tribes ot the interior, such as the Zunis, the 
Moquis, Pimas, and especially by the Navajos. These were 
always regarded as personal beings, having human attributes, 
and were represented under human semblances, thongh they 
were nothing more nor less than the nature powers personified. 
They inhabited the mountain rocks and caves, and had the ap- 
pearance of animals, with human faces and hands. These divinities 
or spirits dwelt in different houses; but they were houses which 
were hid away among the mountains, or water of the lakes, or 
amid the clouds above the mountains, and can be called nature 
divinities or mountain divinities. They, however, all possessed 
the human form, or at least had faces, feet and hands like human 
beings and could talk and act as if they were human. 

It appears that the universe was peopled by supernatural 
beings, and there was not a living creature, nor even an imagin- 
ary object, which did not have its representative in the varied 
"pantheon." The clouds, the rainbow, the storm, the thunder and 
lightning, the snow and rain, the rocks, and the caves among 


the rocks, the crystals formed among the rocks, the water, the 
streams, the trees, the foliage on the trees, the birds, and the 
feathers and the plumage on the birds, the animals, and even the 
fur on the animals, were personified and made objects of worship. 
The colors were especially dwelt upon as representing divinities, 
and were regarded as the clothing with which the nature powers 
were arrayed. There were not only divinities of the water, sky, 
earth and fire, but there were divinities which represented the 
different colors and the different elements. 

It was a very brilliant and highly colored universe which the 
people inhabited and which they imagined were also the habita- 
tions of the anthropomorphic divinities. The houses of the 
divinities had different colors — the black water and the white 
water, the blue sky and the red sky. the yellow sunbeams and 
the black rocks, the white lightning and the red lightning. The 
colors had much to do with the worship of the divinities among 
the eastern tribes, but here they were magnified and exalted to 
a higher rank, and they had a great force in the religious cere- 
monies of the people. The points of the compass were regarded 
as sacred and had different colors, which were sacred to certain 
divinities; but there were added to the four points three more, 
to represent the zenith, nadir and the central point around which 
the universe revolved, making seven spaces, six of which were 
occupied by the divinities, the central one being the place where 
the divinity and humanity met. Among some of the tribes there 
were double spaces, making two worlds — the celestial and the 
terrestial. Both worlds revolved about the central space exactly 
as the nine worlds of the Chinese revolved around the throne of 
the celestial emperor, and as the four peaks of the Hindoo 
mountain stood around the central mountain of Meru, which 
was regarded as the pillar of the sky and the navel of the 
universe. The celestial spaces were occupied by the anthropo- 
morphic divinities, but the terrestial spaces were guarded by 
animal divinities which were represented in the red stone 
fetiches,* which the people worshiped. There was a central 
space in the sacred geography of the ancient natives of the east. 
There it was always located in the city, and in the temple in the 
midst of the city. With this people it was located in the pueblos. 
Sometimes seven pueblos were built, perhaps to symbolize the 
different spaces. 

We would notice further that the dwelling place of the 

*Thc central mountain among the Navajos, as well as four mountains surrounding it. 
(See ttie mountain cliart liy Dr. Wasliington Mattliews.) .. r . • • 

There were six pueblos among tlie Zunis, one of wluch %vas the seat ot dominion, or 
central power. (See Bandelier.') x- j * c r- i„^ 

\ checkerboard village with a larger edifice in the center was noticed at ban L:iros. 
Arizona. (See Investigations in Southwest, p. 417.) This was of tlic Mexican type Clus- 
ters of the checkerlioard pattern were found near Phoenix. Arizona, f . 444- J^ot only 
from tlie discovery of totemic devices, but from other evidences, it is supposed that eac 1 
was tlie abiding place of a particular clan or gens. Cassa Grande shows three stones, w^ith 
a third story like a tower-one of them suliterranean, making four. (Sighted from bartlett s 
Personal Narrative, Vol. II, p. 272.) (Bancroft's Native Races, \ ol. I V , p. 625.} 


divinities differed among the different tribes, the Navajos 
representing them as dwelling on top of the mountains and 
above the clouds, while the Zunis and Moquis represented them 
as dwelling beneath the waters and below the mountains. Still 
the houses in which the divinities dwelt, which were pictured 
out by the Navajos, were formed of the clouds and were built 
in terraces resembling the terraced houses of the Pueblos, but 
had different colors, very much as the Babylonian pyramids had. 
These many colored clouds were guarded by animal divinities, 
but they could be reached by human beings, especially when 
attended with the supernatural beings as companions. One of 
the most beautiful tales, or myths, of the Navajos is contained 
in the description of an individual who was seeking after his 
spiritual body and who was led by two of the divinities through 
the different clouds, the grey cloud, and the red cloud, to where 
the body was lying. According to the myth each bank of 
clouds contained a chamber which had a different color and was 
guarded by some animal with a color corresponding to the 
cloud. The house in which the soul body was lying was situ- 
ated in a field beyond the clouds ; it had a door and sill, front 
part and back part, each of which are mentioned as if they were 
sacred. Ihe body itself seemed to be held in its place by a 
secret spell or charm which was broken by the presence of the 
supernatural divinities and taken up part by part — hands, ieet, 
body, hair, even to the spittal, and carried back to the habitation 
of the human being, who, as a soul, seemed to be disembodied. 
The story reminds us of the Dakota myth of the souls of their 
ancestors which passed up through the different terraces, which 
were supported by the tree of life, and took the bodies of birds. 
It required the greatest formality for these attended divinities — 
the one before, the other behind the soul in its passage through 
the clouds, and the myth is stretched out a great length in its 
repetitions, but is very striking. This differs from the mythol- 
ogy of the Zunis, who imagined that the houses of their divini- 
ties were beneath the waters of the sacred lake, and were to be 
reached by passing through the secret path through the 
mountains. These houses, themselves, resembled the pueblos 
in all particulars. Thus, we see that the different tribes drew 
their ideas of an unseen universe from their surroundings. The 
same contrasts are perceptible in the story of creation. With 
the Navajos the gods were born upon the top of the mountains; 
with the Zunis and Moquis their original home was in the cave 
beneath the earth. 

There are many myths extant among these partially civilized 
tribes which exhibit their conceptions in reference to the appear- 
ance of the humanized divinities. They are very beautiful and 
full of poetical fancies; the imagery of them having been drawn 
from the magnificent scenery of the region and is resplendent 


with the colors with which the rocks and mountains were clothed 
and sparkles with the jewels and precious stones which abound, 
and is as varied and striking as the vegetation which covered the 
mountains. The symbols also of the different tribes were de- 
rived from the scenery; many of them were invented to express 
the operations of nature, though the tribes borrowed symbols 
f -om one another as well as myths. Many of these myths and 
symbols were embodied in the sand paintings, which for a long 
time were unknown, but are now proving to be very interesting 
objects of study, for they are like the missals written during the 
middle ages. They are not only very beautiful, but they perpet- 
uate the ancient traditions of the people; in fact, have preserved 
the sacred book from destruction.* 

These sand paintings show a wonderful taste for color, and at 
the same time reveal an elaborate symbol which represents the 
various nature powers — such as the wind, rain, lightning and four 
points of the compass — also a familiarity with the sacred plants; 
but the most remarkable thing is that the gods of the sky are 
always represented as having the human form clothed with the 
sunbeams and the colors of the sky and adorned with rainbows, 
but controling the nature powers and guarding the plants. This 
is one peculiarity of anthropomorphism. The divinity who has 
the human form is really master of the creation and reigns 
supreme over all the other powers. The best illustration of this 
is given by the ceremonial and sand-painting called Hastjdti 
Dailjis. This ceremonial was founded upon the story of creation, 
which is as follows. Hastjelti and Hostjoghcn were the children 
of Ahsonnutli, the turquois and the white shell woman, who 
were born on the mountain where the fogs meet. These two 
became the great song makers of the world and were the rain 
gods.f These two gods were the mountain divinities which 
were worshiped by the Navajos, They stand upon the mountain 
tops and call the clouds together around them. Hastjelti is the 
mediator between the Navajo and the sun. He communicates 
with the Navajo through feathers, so the choicest plumes are 
attached to the prayer sticks offered to him. They gave to the 
mountain of their nativity (Henry Mountain, in Utah) two songsj 

♦These sand paintings were first discovered by Dr. Washington Matthews, but others, 
have added to the descriptions furnished until quite a mass ot literature has accumulated— 
Mr. James Stevenson, Mrs. Mati da Stevenson, Mr. F. H. Cashing, Li utenant Bourke, 
Dr. J Walter Fewkes, and others having furnished many articles in reference to them. 

fThcy may be regarded as personifications of the white and yellow corn, for they were 
conceived of ears of corn— the male from the white corn and the female from tlie yellow- 
though they are also rain gods, the effect of the rain being confounded with the cause, as 
it is frequentlv the case. 

iThe Tusayans, according to Dr. Walter P'cwkes, had sand-paintings and song makers, 
which served an important part in their rain ceremonials. The Tusayans also had many 
idols which were distinguished by their head dresses, most careful attention being paid to 
the colors. The gods and goddesses of the Egyptians were principally distinguished by 
their head dresses. These idols were placed before the altars and set in piles of sand. 
They were sprinkled with meal and adorned with feathers. In many of the houses there 
are large stone images standing in conspicuous places. \ large collection of these idols of 
the Tusayans and Zunis has been gathered at Washington, in the National Museum. 
(See Tusayan Indian Dolls, by J. Walter Fewkes, Boston, Mass., 1894.) 























and two prayers; then they went to Sierra Blanca (Colorado) 
and made two songs and prayers and dressed the mountain in 
clothing of white shell with two eagle plumes placed upright 
upon the head. From here they visited San Mateo Mountain 
(New Mexico) and gave to it two songs and prayers and dressed 
it in turquois, even to the leggings and moccasins, and placed 
two eagle plumes on the head. Hence they went to San Fran- 
cisco Mountain (Arizona) and made two songs and prayers and 
dressed that mountain in abalone shells with two eagle plumes 
upon the head. They then visited Ute Mountain and gave to it 
two songs and prayers and dressed it in black beads; this mount- 
ain also had two eagle plumes on its head. They then returned 
to the mountain of their nativity to meditate, " We two have 
made all these songs." 

The myth which served as the foundation of some of the sand 
paintings has relation to a song hunter and the Colorado river. 
A Jerusalem cross was formed out of two logs — a solid one and 
a hollow one. The song hunter entered the hollow log and 
Hastjelti closed the end with a cloud. The raft was launched 
upon the waters, but the Hostjobokon (river gods), accompanied 
by their wives, rode upon the logs — a couple sitting on the end 
of each cross arm. They were accompanied by Hastjelti and 
Hostjoghon (divinities of the mountains), and two hunchbacks, 
Naaskiddi (cloud divinities). These hunchbacks have clouds 
upon their backs in which seeds of all vegetation are held, and 
were perhaps the gods of vegetation. After they had floated a 
long distance they came to (the ocean) waters that had a shore 
on one side only. Here they found a people who painted pictures 
and who taught them how to make sand-pictures. See Plate.* 

In making their sand-paintings the Navajos prepared a sweat- 
house and painted the rainbow on the outside. This rainbow 
had the head and body, which hung down at one side of the 
lodge, and skirted legs upon the other side. The entrance to 
the lodge was covered with a black and white striped blanket, 
which symbolized the black and white cloud, and two buckskins, 
which represented daylight, or the twilight, or the dawn. Pre- 
parations for the sand-paintings were very elaborate in some 
cases, as in that of the ceremonial called Dailjis ; there were 
deer skins, reeds and colored tubes filled with feathers tipped 
with corn pollen and lighted with crystal, corn husks containing 
bits of turquois, beads and abalone shells, baskets filled with 
pine needles and corals, rugs covered with feathers, medicine 
tubes and crystals. The actors or personators of the gods 
adorned themselves with scarfs, belts, masks, eagle wands, rings 

*In this we see the suastika as well as the cross; the one representing the points of the 
compass, the other the revolution of the sky. Also the staves, by means of which the god- 
dess kept the logs whirling around with a constant motion. The chart is called the "Song 
of the Whirling Sticks." 


and gourds. The bodies and limbs were painted white. One 
wore knee breeches and a skirt of black velvet ornamented with 
silver buttons, a robe of mountain lion skins fastened around 
the waist with a silver belt. Another wore a red woolen scarf 
and silver belt; grey fox skins hung from the back of the belt. 

The first sand-painting was made up of three figures representing the 
divinities, as follows: Hastjelti's chin was covered with corn pollen and his 
head was surrounded with red sunlight, red cross lines on the throat, ear- 
rings of turquois, fringed leggings and beade'l moccasins. Hostjoghon has 
eagle plumes, ear-rings, fox skm ribbons, beaded pendants, carried feather 
wands brightened with red, blue and yellow sunbeams. Hostjobokon, was 
similarly dressed and ornamented, The second painting represented the 
raft of sunbeams which brought back the song hunters. This raft is the 
shape of a Jerusalem cross, and was composed of black cross bars, which 
denote pine logs; white lines, the froth of the water; the yellow, vegetable 
debris gathered by the logs; the blue and red lines, sunbeams. The blue 
spot in the center denotes water. There are four divmities — Hostjobokon 
with their wives upon the arms of the cross or upon the logs. They carry 
rattles and pinon sprigs m their hands, which bring the rains. Their 
heads are ornamented with eagle plumes, and they wear turquois ear-rmgs 
and necklaces. A line of sunlight encircles the head; white spots to repre- 
sent ears; the chins are covered with corn pollen; red sunlight surrounds 
the body; the skirts have a line of blue sunlight. Hastjelti is to the east 
and has a white skirt; he carries a squirrel skin filled with tobacco; his 
head is ornamented with an eagle's tail. Hostjoghon is to the west and has 
a black skirt; he carries a staff, colored black, and his body is covered with 
four colored stars. The Naaskiddi (cloud divinities) are to the north and 
south; they carry staffs of lightning with eagle plumes and sunbeams. 
The hunch upon the back is a black cloud, and on the cloud are eagle 

glumes, for eagles lived with the clouds. The lines of red and blue which 
order the black cloud denote the sunshine which penetrates storm clouds. 
The white lines in the clouds denote corn and other seeds. A black circle 
with zigzags of white around the head denotes the cloud basket filled with 
corn and seeds. The mountain sheep horns, tipped with tail feathers of 
the eagle are cloud baskets filled with clouds. A rainbow surrounds the 
picture with the feet and skirts upon one side, the head, arms and body on 
the other side. See Plate. 

There are other sand-paintings which accompany the ceremo- 
nies in which the medicine men undertook to cure the patients 
who were wealthy and could afford the expense.* Of these the 
following is especially worthy of notice, because of the number 
of human figures and the beauty of the colors: 

In this sand-painting there are twelve figures beside the corn-stalk; four 
of them are the hunch-backed cloud-bearers, with lightning staffs in their 
hands, called Naaskiddi; four of them are the goddesses of the white 
lightning called Ethsetlhe, and they carry in their hands the plume and 
circles which symbolize the clouds, and they have their bodies painted 
white; four of them represent the people of the white and the red rocks, 
called the Zenichi. Their homes are high in the canon wall. The deli- 

*It is said that the Navaios borrowed their ideas in recard to sand-paintings from the 
Pueblo tribes. The Zuni andTusayan tribes, the Mission Indians of California have sand- 
paintings and also the Apaches. The prominent feature in them all is this: The divinities 
are represeuted in the human shape, and the nature powers are symbolized in the orna- 
ments and colors. 

+ The superstition which represents the rocks as abodes of spirits was common among 
the Eskimos, as well as among the inhabitants of the Easter Islands. This led them to 
carve the human face upon the rocks, and the rocks themselves into the shape of animals 
with human faces. This was a species of animism, but it was owing to the animism which 
prevailed that it was mingled with ancestor worship and animal worship. 


cate white lines indicate their houses, which are in the interior or depths 
of the rock.t and can not be seen from the surface. The people ot the 
rocks move the air like birds. They are painted in parti-colors, two of 
them having one side of the body, includmg the arms, the legs and face, 
red, the other side black, with cross-hatching or zigzags of black; the other 
two having one side blue, the other yellow. The red denotes the red corn; 
the black, the black clouds; the blue, vegetation in general; the yellow, the 
pollen of vegetation. The white zigzag lines represent the white lightning; 
the circles around the head zigzagged with white are cloud-baskets, which 
are in the pyramidal form and capped with three eagle plumes. A lightning 
bow is held in the left hands of these figures; the right hand holds a rattle 
ornamented with feathers and decorated baskets. They wear white leg- 
gings and beaded moccasins.* 

The myth or sand-painting which best illustrates the belief in 
anthropomorphic divinities is the one which accompanies the 
myth called the "Mountain Chant," which has been described by 
Dr. Washington Matthews. This myth celebrates the exploits 
of a Navajo who was taken captive, and who was delivered by 
Hastjelti, the great mountain divinity. In delivering him the 
mountain god led him through the different houses which were 
inhabited by the animals and various creatures which hide 
amongf the mountains, such as the mountain bear, the mountain 
rat, rabbits, porcupines, serpents, all of which were supposed to 
have the human form. The various powers of nature are also 
personified — the water, lightning, wind, storm and rainbow. The 
following is the story : Hastjelti appeared to the captive while 
he was bound in the tent of his enemies, and encourages him to 
escape. He bestows upon him some magic bags which he is to 
carry as a passport to the houses in the mountains. He even 
volunteers to lead him and help him make his escape and puts 
forth most miraculous feats of power to make his escape easy. 
Their first adventure was when they reached the summit of a 
steep precipice, near which is a tall tree growing; the divinity 
flings out the white lightning like a lasso, wnich fastens around the 
tree, and he brings it up near the precipice. On this they descend. 
They next came to a deep cafion, which seemed to be impassable, 
but Hastjelti blows a strong breath and instantly a great 
white rainbow spans the cafion. He orders the Navajo to cross 
on this. He points to a small hole in the cliff and says, "This 
is the door of my lodge, enter." He blew on the rock, and in- 
stantly the mountain opened and closed again, and saved him 
from his pursuers. They passed through three rooms and stopped 
in the fourth, when Hastjelti went out, and presently the voices 
of the pursuers died away and were heard no more. When all 
was silent Hastjelti returned and said: "Your enemies have de- 

» These different colors in which the mountain divinities were painted remind us of the 
tattooing and face painting of the Oiibwas and Dakotas. Mandans and other eastern tribes. 
Among the Ojibwas the face painting was done in connection with the sacred mysteries or 
sacret societies and was a sign of advancement tlirougli the different degrees. With all 
totemistic tribes the personating and the painting were designed to represent animal divin- 
ities rather than mountain divinities. The Mandans paint themselves as deer, putting 
white stripes on their limbs, or as bald eagles, with whitened faces. They rub green earth 
on the face from the ear to the mouth and put Indian red on the body in spots. They place 
white feathers on their heads, which wave slowly in the dances. See Catlin's Indians. 



parted; you can leave in safety." So, taking a tanned elk's skin 
to cover his back, a pair of new moccasins, a pair of long, fringed 
leggings and a shirt, he set out. 

The Navajo, thus clothed, hastened on until he came near the 
foot of a high pinnacle of rock, on which was a mountain goat 
who bade him to go around the mountain, and then led him into 

the mountain, where there were 


Bsys?^:ii^jSw.:i..: ; :: : - ,>Kv:^Z ■ • ;■■-■;• r^ ^:, '. : v' f^^ij- departments, over which 

the rainbows extended in all di- 
rections. From this place the 
Navajo went to the house where 
was an old man, with a sharp 
nose, little bright eyes and a 
small moustache, who led him to 
the home of the bush rats, in 
which were a little old woman, 
two sons and two daughters, who 
offered him food; but the wind 
god, in a low voice, bade him 
not to eat it, lest he be turned to 
a rat himself In the next ad- 
venture he came to a hill which 
was difficult to climb. The di- 
vinity bade him ascend, but to 
close his eyes as he took the last 
step. When he opened his eyes 
he stood on the summit ot a 
great mountain peak, seamed 
with deep cations, from which he 
could see the place where he 
had lived. As he went on his 
way, the wind god, Niltci, walked 
beside him. He brought a 
great dark whirl-wind, which 
dug a hole in the ground, and 
a cavern with four chambers. 
The wind god said, in a low 
He went down and rested 
secure, while the dark cloud and the rain passed over him. He 
heard overhead the great peals of thunder, the rushing of the 
tempest, and the pattering of the hail-stones. The wind god 
then told him that his enemies had been dispersed. He accord- 
ingly went on, until about sunset he reached the top of a mountain, 
when the snow began to fall and the wind to blow. Here 
Hastjelti appeared and commanded him to go down a spruce 
tree and pointed to a distant glen beyond the valley, in the side 
of the mountain. Here, again, the god put forth his power and 
spanned the valley with a flash of lightning and led the man into 

Hastje'H, the Mountain Divinity 

voice, descend into this retreat. 


a cavern, in which was the fire. There was no wood on the 
fire, but four pebbles lay on the ground, which were gleaming 
with flames, and around the pebbles were four bears, who were 
colored like the pebbles — black, blue, yellow and white. These 
bears brought out stores, and offered him food to eat. They 
also unrolled a great sheet of cloud, and on it painted the forms 
of cultivated plants — the same plants which afterward appeared 
in the sand-paintings. In the next adventure the Navajo beheld 
a tornado; the air filled with logs and uprooted trees. He 
cried out to the storm and the tempest recognized him and sub- 
sided. Before the next adventure the wind god said to him, 
"those whom you meet are evil ones. I will go before you." 
The two then came to a hole in the rocks, which was guarded 
by two great rattlesnakes, which shook their rattles and struck 
at them. Within the rocks was a bald-headed old man, who had 
a little tuft of hair over each ear. This was Klictso, the great 
serpent, who taught the Indians how to make sacrifice to the 
great serpent. 

From the home of Klictso they went to a place called Wind- 
Circles-Around-a-Rock, and where they heard loud peals of 
thunder. They entered a house of black clouds. It was the 
house of Icni, the lightning god. He was also bald like the 
great serpent, having only a little tuft of hair over the right ear.* 
At each side of the house was a lightning bird — that in the east 
was black; south, blue; west, yellow; north, white.f From 
time to time the birds flashed lightning from their claws and the 
lightning was the same color as the bird that emitted it.| The 
next place that they reached was a dwelling filled with butterflies 
and rainbows. Here the butterfly woman brought a beautiful 
white shell filled with water and soap root, and bade the Navajo 
to wash his body and dry himself with meal, and paint his face 
with white earth. When the painting was done she worked his 
body over until she moulded him into a youth of the most 
beautiful form and feature. She gave him fine white moccasins 
and a collar of beaver skin, and put plumes on his arms to 
represent wings, and adorned him as the courier Akaminih is 
adorned, § 

♦This shows the idenity of the lightning with the great serpent, and makes it probal)le 
that the Maya god, Xniucani. was also the lightning. This god is represented in the Cor- 
tesian Codex as having a bald head and a tuft of hair over the ears. He is seated under the 
Tree of Life, and is accompanied by the figure with the scroll about his eye, called Cucul- 
can. Dr. Brinton thinks they represent our first parents, the divine pair, called in tlie 
Popul vuh the creator and the former. 

t These colors of the cardinal points varied with the different tribes, as will be seen by 
the table given by Rev. J. O. Dorsey. 

J This conception of the bird throwing lightning from its claws is common among the 
Dakotas and corresponds with the conceptions ot the emljlem of the .American eagle, 
which holds arrows in its claws. 

§This courier is the one who summons the people to the dances or sand-painting. The 
legs and forearms are painted lilack to represent the storm cloud, with white zig zag streaks 
to represent lightning, and had white spots scattered over their bodies, and eagle feathers 
in their hair, necklaces of shell, collars of heaver skin, plumes on their arms to represent 
wings, fawn-skin bags in the hands, a girdle of shell around the waist, a short skirt covering 
their loins. (See Mountain Chant, p. 424 ;_fig. 52}. 


The butterfly woman laid two streaks of white lightning on 
the ground and bade him stand on them with one foot on each 
streak, "for the lightning is yours," she said. She then pointed 
out the lightning trail. This trail he followed until he arrived 
at the house of the holy woman (Estsan-cigini), whose door was of 
trees. Within on the east wall hung the sun and on the west 
hung the moon. Here he was shown the kethawn, or sacrificial 
stick, and was told how to make it. The next house that he 
entered was two stories high, with four rooms on the first and 
four in the second, and had four doorways with trees of differ- 
ent colors for doors. Here dwelt four bear maidens; their faces 
were white, with hands like human hands, but their arms and 
legs were covered with shaggy hair and their teeth were long 
and pointed. The bear woman was a great warrior and in- 

He then entered a house made of water, and found eight holy 
young men, with arrows hanging on the wall, two standing at 
each cardinal point, thus representing these points. He next 
went to the house of the big oaks, whose door was made of red 
sunbeams, and of which the walls were made of logs of different 
colors. The east wall was black ; south, blue ; west, yellow, and 
north, white. Here were young men and women in the form 
of squirrels, with red and black stripes on their backs, who 
taught him to make kethawns. He went to a house whose door 
was of darkness, and was guarded by the bat, and was the home 
of the skunks. He then passed to the home of the porcupines, 
which was colored according to the cardinal hues. He next 
entered a house made of black water, with wind for the door, 
which was the home of the frog, water snake and the animals 
of the water, and here learned some of their mysteries. The 
next place was a house built of white rock crystal, the door 
being made of all sorts of plants, and was the home of the 
supernatural young women. 

He also went to the house of cherries with a door of lightning. 
Here he found the gods arranged around the fire holding arrows 
made of the cliff-rose in their hands, and afterward to the leaf 
mountain and found a house made of dew drops, with a door 
made of plants. This was the home of the goddesses who had 
long bodies. They had plumes on their heads and were so very 
tall they seemed to touch the heavens. Leaving the house of 
dew he came to the white water and the great spring, where 
there was a house of corn pollen, the door of daylight. The 
ceiling was supported by four spruce trees and rainbows ran in 
every direction, making the house shine within with beautiful 
colors. Hastjelti next took him to the house of brown water, 
and led him to the top of a high hill where he could see his own 
home. When he arrived at home it took him four days and 
four nicrhts to relate his adventures and to instruct his hearers in 



the mysteries which he had learned. On the fifth day they sent 
out couriers to invite the neighbors to a great feast and dance, 
and then the sand-paintings were introduced. 

There are four sand-paintings which embody this mountain 
chant, each representing the visit of the Navajo chief to the 
different houtes in the rocks and the people which he there met, 
with the various objects which surrounded them. 

The first represented the home of the snakes, which was a house mide 
of the dark water. In the center of the picture was a circular cavity to 
represent the water, which was sprinkled with charcoal.* Surrounding 
this are four parallelograms representing the rafts of sunbeams.! 

This figure of Hastjelti, the divinity who befriended the Nav- 
ajo prophet, differs from the wind god in appearance. He is 
represented as wearing a white skirt, bordered with black lines, 
to symbolize the black clouds. He carries the squirrel pouch 
in his hands, in which is the food of the gods. He wears on 
his head plumes, which are also symbols of the clouds. He has 
moccasins of different colors and garters. He is the chief moun- 
tain divinity of the Navajos. 

The second picture represents the painting which the prophets saw in the 
home of the bears in the Carrizo Mountains, and contains the figures of the 
mountain divinities and the plants which they protect. There is in it the 
same rainbow, sunbeams, rafts, and the same water bowls. But on the 
rafts are the four gods which have the human form; each one with the feet 
placed upon the raft and the head extending so as to represent the cardinal 
points. These divinities are painted different colors also, to represent the 
world waters— blue, black, white and yellow. The arms are half extended 
and are adorned with lines to represent lightning, and black to represent 
the clouds. They carry in their hands, suspended by a string, a rattle, a 
charm, and a basket. They have skirts of red sunlight, adorned with sun- 
beams, also ear pendants, bracelets and armle'S, made of blue and red 
turquois, the prehistoric jewels of the Navajos. Their forearms and legs 
are black, to symbolize the rain-clouds, zigzag marks to represent lightning. 
At the side of each of the gods is a plant which has the same color of the 
god, a stalk of corn in the southeast painted white, which belongs to the 
eastern god, which is white; the bean stalk in the southwest belongs to the 
southern god, both painted blue; the pumpkin vine in the southwest belongs 
to the western god, both of them yellow; the tobacco plant belongs to the 
god of the north, both of them black. Each of these four sacred plants are 
represented as growing from five white loots in the central waters, but 

* The water is the abode of the spirits of life, and the water-jars were regarded as 
sacred. Cusliing says: When a woman has finished a vessel, with its ornaments and sym- 
bols, she will tell you. with an air of relief, "It is a made being." 'J"he space in the orna- 
ments was the exit trail of the or being. When the vessel cracks you can hear the voice of 
this "made being," supposed to be the voice of the associated being as it escapes. 

tThese rafts are called, according to Dr. Washington Mstthcws, ca'bitlol, or "rafts of 
sunbeams," the favored vessel on which the divine ones navigate the upper deep. When a 
god has a particularly long journey to make, he takeS two sunbeams, fastens them together 
and is borne off whither he wills. Red and blue represent sunbeams and the morning and 
evening skies. External to the sunbeam rafts, standing on them, are the figuses of eight 
serpents— two white ones to the east, twe blue ones to tlie south, two yellow in tlie west and 
two black in tlie north. These snakes cross one another and seem to stand on the arms of 
the cross; The neck is blue crossed with four bands of red. Outside of the eight snakes 
are four more of greater length, which fosm a boundary to the picture. These have differ- 
ent colors and may represent the rain-gods of the world-quarters. In the west is a black 
figure representing a mountain, in which the snake divinities dwelt. From the summit of 
the mountain to the central waters is a line on which are four foot-prints which represent 
the track of the bear, one of the mountain divinities. In the northwest of this picture is 
the figure of a wind-god, who awpeared to tlie young man and went with him to the home 
of the snakes. He is called Niltci. 


spread out from the center to the circumference— alternating with the gods 
The gods form one cross and represent the four cardinal points. The 
plants form another cross and represent the mtermediate pomts of the com- 
pass. The gods carry beautifully embroidered pouches in their hands, the 
pouches being the shape of birds. Near the gods is a figure of a suastika * 
which is formed by crossing the center, the arms of the suastika bemg 
made of plumes; these are the cloud baskets which are carried by the gods, 
Surrounding the picture is the rambow deity, with the body pamted in 
different colors, to represent the rainbow, and the hands and feet black, to 
represent the black clouds and the white lightning. The rainbow is always 
a female and reminds us of the Iris, the Greek goddess, who personated the 
rainbow. The third picture commemorates the visit to the lodge of the 
dew, whose door was made of plants of many kinds, and contains the figures 
of the goddesses with long bodies. 

The third picture of this series was made in accordance with the in- 
structions received in the house of cherries with the door of lightning. In 
the picture the naked figures of the goddesses were first drawn and colors 
given to them appropriate to the points of the compass which they occu- 
pied in the house of the dew-drops— white for the east, blue for the south, 
yellow for ihe west, black for the north. To indicate their great height the 
figures were twice the length of any in the other pictures. Each is clothed 
in four garments, one above another, for no one garment could be made 
long enough to cover such giant forms. The appendages at the sides of 
the heads represent the head-dresses made of skins of different colors, 
which the goddesses are said to wear. Each one bears, attached to the 
right hand, a rattle, a charm, and a branch of choke-cherry in bloom. Some 
other adjuncts of the picture— the red robes embroidered with sunbeams, 
the forearms and legs clothed with clouds and lightning, the pendants from 
wrists and elbows, the blue and red armlets, bracelets and garters— are 
properties of nearly all the anthropomorphic gods shown in these pictures. 
The rainpow, which encloses the group on three sides, is not the anthropo- 
morphic rainbow; It has no head, neck, arms or lower extremities. Five 
white eagle plumes adorn its southeastern end; five tail-plumes of some 
bluebird decorate the bend in the southwest; the tail of the red-shafted 
flicker is near the bend in the northwest; and the tail of the magpie ter- 
minates the northeastern extremity. Throughout the mvth not only is the 
house of dew spoken of as adorned with hangings and festoons of rain- 
bows, but nearly all the holy dwellings are thus embellished. It is the task 
of the shaman, when the work of painting is completed, to put the corn- 
pollen, emblem of fecundity, on the lips and breast of each divine form, 
and to set up the bounding plume-sticks around the picture. Then the one 
who gives the feast enters and is placed sitting on the form that belongs to 
the east— the white form— and looking eastward. Then the colored dust 
from various parts of the divine figures is taken and applied to correspond- 
ing parts of the patient, and many other ceremonies are performed which 
it is not my purpose to relate here. When the patient has departed many 
of the spectators pick up the corn-pollen, now rendered doubly sacred, and 
put It in their medicine-bags. Some take dust from the figures on their 
moistened palms and apply it to their own bodies. If the devotee has dis- 
ease in his legs, he takes powder from the legs of the figure; if in his head 
he takes powder from the head, and so on. 

♦The suastika. with bent arrows for arms, is novel but this indicates that it is a sky 
symbol— probably denotes the revolving sky. The circles denote the sun and the crescent. 
the moon and tlie central cross the cardinal points, the colors the different colois of the sky, 



The custom of erecting columns which were commemorative 
of the departed is as old as history and widespread as the human 
family. It, in fact, began in prehistoric times 'with the earliest 
race, but has continued into historic times and still survives 
as the custom among all nations. The pattern or style of mon- 
ument varies with different nations, but perhaps the earliest 
style is that which developed into the standing stones of Great 
Britain, Northern Europe, Western Asia and India, and which 
still survives in the gravestones and monuments which are found 
in our cemeteries everywhere. There were other styles which 
appeared at a very early date, perhaps as early as the standing 
stones, and which spread over the different continents from a 
common center. It becomes, then, an interesting task to study 
the different types, and to follow out the lines along which 
they were transmitted. The starting point of these monuments 
may not be very easy to find, yet we may begin at almost any 
point and trace them from race to race and from continent to 
contment, and make them objects of study. When we do this 
we find problems arising which are the most perplexing and 
difficult, problems concerning the origin of man, the spread of the 
human race, the progress of art and the development of symbol- 
ism, and many others equally as important. These must be 
heeded as we start in upon the broad field, and must be borne 
in mind as we advance, for we may find clues to their solution 
as we study the different monuments. 

I. Let us consider the general custom, i. The main question 
which arises here is the one which relates to the history of com- 
memorative art and its spread among the different races. We 
find this illustrated in the monuments of Europe. This habit of 
erecting a column as commemorative was introduced at an early 
date and has largely prevailed. 

The erection of the standing stones in the form of a circle was 
very common in Europe, but wherever it appeared was evidently 
symbolic of sun worship; and yet, strange to say, the circles 
almost always surround some central burying place, and are in 
reality both commemorative and symbolic. The decoration of 
these standing stones, with cup marks and channeled circles and 
loops and intaglio battle axes was a second stage in the same art. 
Angel faces and wings, crosses, wreaths, circles, and other em- 


blems and symbols, came in after historic times. These mark 
the third stage and show the change from Paganism to Christian 
symbolism. Mr. Joseph Anderson, the author of "Scotland in 
Pagan Times," has given some very interesting facts in this con- 
nection. He says: "The typical form of the stone age burial 
custom was the chambered cairn, but we find these occasionally 
encircled by stone settings or circles of standing stones, but 
when the circle is associated with a cisted cairn the circle always 
appears as the principal member while the stone setting originally 
rose as an adjunct oi the chambered cairns of the stone age. It 
acquired its dignity and importance in the subsequent age, by 
the degredation of the stone structure, and came at last to stand 
alone as the most distinguishing and characteristic mark of the 
bronze age burial. The burial ground is fenced off from the 
surrounding area by a circle of stones, sometimes mere natural 
boulders, rolled into their places, at other times tall slabs, set 
erect on their ends, and at still other times surrounded by a 
trench and embankment of earth. Ocasionally the stone circle 
is doubled, the inner circle being formed of smaller slabs. From 
the frequency with which these burial circles are found to con- 
tain a plurality of interments, it is obvious they are not the 
monuments of single individuals, but family or tribal burial 
grounds. The stone setting then is the external sign by which 
the burial ground is distmguished from the surrounding area- 
Like the cairn, it is the visible mark of the spot of earth to 
which the remains of the dead have been consigned. The 
colossal size of their pillar stones, the magnitude of the area 
enclosed, the care and labor expended in trenching and fencing 
are features which give to these singular constructions a peculiarly 
impressive character. This impressiveness is especially charac- 
teristic of such a circle as that of Stennis in Orkney. It stands 
within a trench enclosing an area of two and one-half acres. 
The diameter of the area is 366 feet, the trench 29 feet, the stones 
17 feet apart, the highest 14 feet. 23 m all. We are unable to 
define the limits of the area in which stone circles are found, but 
they are not confined to either Scotland or Britain, or even 
Europe." The best specimen of stone setting in circular form is 
that contained in the memorable works at Avebury, England, 
which we have several times described, but without giving an 
explanation of its use. See Fig. i. Another class of monumental 
stone settings, much more rarely met with than the circular 
groups, consist in the group of upright stones or alignments. 

Mr. Anderson also speaks of the standing stones which are 
found arranged in alignments* rather than in circular groups, 
and classes them under the same head of commemorative col- 
umns. He says : "There is a relationship of type between 

*See Scotland in Pagan Times, by Joseph Anderson, page 131. 


these monumental stone settings, for the cairn is associated with 
both classes, those arranged in alignments and those in circles." 
He speaks of the alignments found in Scotland, and says there 
is a relationship of type. The cairn is associated with settings 
of standing stones when they are arranged in alignments. These 
are, like the circles, adjuncts to a sepulchral cairn. On the hill 
side of "many stanes," in Caithness,* is a group that consists of 
tv'enty-two rows of standing stones, one hundred and fifty feet 
in length, the number exceeding four hundred. Looking at the 
magnitude of the work, and the immensity of the masses of indi- 
vidual stones, we discern indications of confidence of power to 
overcome the forces of nature, of organization, and co-operation 
which are the necessary concomitants of civilization. This is an 
explanation of the standing stones in Scotland and Great Britain, 
but it may be applied to the standing stones and alignments of 
the north of France, especially those at Carnac,t in Brittany. 


Pig. I. — Circle of Standing Stones at Avebury, 

These consist of eleven rows of unhewn stones, the largest being 
22 feet above the ground. The avenues originally extended for 
several miles, but at present are 3378 feet in length, 328 feet in 
breadth and tapering to 200 feet at the tail. There is at its head a 
cromlech of 62 menhirs — thus confirming Mr. Anderson's po- 
sition. The province of Brittany has 23 alignments, one half of 
those in all France. They are generally associated with either 
dolmans or cromlechs and may have marked the burial places 
of the common people, or battle fields, but this is only conjec- 
tural. They are the monuments of the bronze age. and are 
associated with the dolmens which were burial places through 
that age. The relation of the standing stones to the summer 
solstice has been studied by Mr. A. Lewis and others, and it is 
held that the northeast opening ot the circles was designed to 
admit the rays of the rising sun at the time. 

]\Iiss A W. Buckland has spoken of the proximity of these 

* See "Scotland in Pagan Times," by Joseph Anderson, page 121. 

t See Archoeology in Westarn Europe, American Antiquarian, Vol. X, No. i. page 14. 
3468 dolmens, 1577 menhirs, 457 cromlechs, 56 alignments; 6 alignments represent 3000 


alis^nments, circles and dolmens to the sea coast, and says that 
they are not found in central Europe, thus furnishing a hint as 
to their origin. The theory once prevailed that they were intro- 
duced along with the other tokens of the bronze age by Phoe- 
nician voyagers, but this like the theory of their having been 
erected by the Druids, is now rejected by many. Sir John 
Lubbock says megalithic monuments resembling these are found 
all over Europe. There are stone avenues in Moab. Standing 
stones were erected in memorial of some particular event. 
Arctic travelers mention stone circles and stone rows among 
the Esquimaux. Even in Australia, stone circles are. said to 
occur. Lafitau figures a circle of upright stones in Virginia, 
carved at the top to rude representations of human faces. 

2. Another question is, were they ethnographic lines which 
were followed, or shall we recognize a process of development 
which had no regard to the races. In answering this question we 
shall avoid all theory and shall only study monuments which 
have appeared among the different races, and especially those 
which are known to have been commemorative. We shall begin 
with the far east and shall follow the lines which have been 
marked by the great races in their various migrations, making 
it a point to study the different types of art which were 
adopted by each, and especially the symbolism which was pecu- 
liar to each. V/e think by doing this we shall certainly ascer- 
tain the line of transmissions which ultimately reached this 
continent and introduced the art into America. 

(i.) There were three different lines of transmission : one by 
the Aryan, the second the Semitic, and the third by the Tura- 
nian race. We can hardly tell which was the earliest, though 
the simplest type is seen in the northwest part of Europe, 
where we find the standing stones and the other commemo- 
rative monuments of the widespread Aryan or Indo-European 
race. We trace the same custom in its transmission through the 
commemorative art, which spread into Egypt and Phoenicia and 
many parts of western Asia, and are preserved in the various 
monuments, commemorative columns, obelisks and sculptured 
stones of the Mediterranean coast. 

(2.) We can see the Semitic line illustrated by the burial cus- 
toms of Egypt. In early historic times the mastaba of this race 
contained the body, which was placed in a sarcophagus and buried 
in the depths of the tomb. This mastaba was undoubtedly the 
same as the stone cist, and was an outgrowth of the same custom of 
burial. Whether the obelisk was placed outside of the mastaba 
is uncertain. A little later the mastaba changed to the pyramid 
and the body of the distinguished dead was buried in its depths. 
This, however, obscured the memory of the deceased. While 
the portrait of the deceased was painted on the case or coffin 
which contained the mummy, and the deeds were recorded in 


the hieroglyphics upon the cell inside of the pyramid, there was 
nothing to remind the living of the exploits of the dead. The 
obelisk was then a necessity, and soon became conspicuous as 
a commemorative column. It was covered with hieroglyphics 
and contained the record of the dynasty. The portrait of the 
king was carved into the statues, and often proved as commem- 
orative as the obelisk ; but these were monuments for the living, 
while the obelisk was designed as a mortuary record. The same 
custom was observed by the Phoenicians, but in a different form, 
for the Phoenicians were base idolaters. There are sculptured 
figures near Kana which resemble portraits. These are placed 
along the foot of the mountains, or in the side of the valleys, or 
on the rocky terraces, and are in lonely and wild places, near 
large natural caves. The history of these is unknown. They 
all look toward the rising sun, and are Jiewn out of the rock.* 
Other tablets have been found in Phoenicia which contain animal 
figures, some of them standing erect and contending with one 
another. These may have been totems, or possibly they repre- 
sented the divinities. We do not class them with the mortuary 
records. The obelisk was common also in Assyria. The one frorfi 
Nimroud, now in the British museum, is an ancient specimen. The 
rock-cut tomb in Lycia has two columns in front of the door, 
but they are in the Ionic style and are modern. The monu- 
ments of Amrith are much older. They are called spindle 
columns, but are truly majestic. They are cylinders which arise 
from a square platform and terminate in a cone. The propylon 
of Xerxes at Persepolis is another specimen which, though mod- 
ern, contains the column. At the gate of the lions at Mycenae 
is a column which is supposed to have been symbolic as well as 
commemorative. Many other specimens might be cited, but 
enough has been said to show that the custom was prevalent 
among the entire Semitic race, and that it influenced also the 
Hellenic race. 

(3.) Another line will be found in the Turanian race, who were 
ancestors of the great Mongolian race, and perhaps also ancestors 
of the Malay race, though there is some uncertainty as to the 
identity of these two. The Turanians have been regarded, how- 
ever, as the so-called ground race. The custom of- erecting 
mortuary columns was the basis of the art of all these races, 
and it may be that we shall yet trace the line of transmission 
back to a common center, making the Phoenician and Hittite 
monuments the outgrowth of the same custom prevalent among 
Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Chinese, Malays, and the wide 
spread Indo-European races, thus proving not only the unity, 
but also indicating a connection between the races of the west 
with those of the east in prehistoric times. 

*The work is very rude, but was quite ancient. 


II. The custom of erecting commemorative columns prevailed 
in America. How do we account for this ? Was it introduced 
from some other continent, or did it originate here? It is a sin- 
o-ular fact that there are few commemorative columns in the 
eastern part of this continent. A few standing stones have been 
discovered situated in the Mississippi Valley. We do not know 
that they were commemorative. There are many specimens ot 
ancestor posts, however, on the northwest coast, which give rise 
to the thought that the custom must have been introduced from 
some other continent. If we place these along with the so-called 
portrait pillars found in the southwest provinces, we shall have 
a confirmation of the thought. We shall it for granted that the 
Turanian stock is to be located in the northeast and southeast 
coast of the continent of Asia, and that it formed the under- 
lying stratum of the entire Polynesian race, though the lines of 
migration have not been followed up. The commemorative 
columns of the entire region will come before us for our study. 
These connect closely with the totem posts or ancestor posts of 
the northwest coast. This race seems to have migrated eastward 
and may be divided into two great branches — one located in 
Mongolia, the other in Polynesia and perhaps upon the Ameri- 
can continent. The religion of the Turanians was largely ancestor 
worship and abounded in commemorative colums. We do not 
find totemism as developed in this as among some other races, 
nor do we find sun worship as prevalent. Ancestor worship and 
hero worship predominated. This accounts for the difference 
between the cults which prevailed in the Atlantic and the Pacific. 
The Atlantic furnishes but little evidence of an ancestor worship, 
but in the Pacific it prevailed extensively. There seems to have 
been a transmission, not only of the system itself, but also of the 
custom of erecting ancestor posts, over the entire region occu- 
pied by the Turanian race. 

Erman, in "Travels in Siberia," says the Ostyaks and Samoyedes 
were in the habit of erecting images in honor of deceased parents. 
These images were set up in their " yurts." and received divine 
honors for a greater or less time, according as the priest directed. 
The body was buried with a nart and reindeer for use in the next 
life, also a tinder-box and pipe and tobacco ; but the image in 
the tent represented the deceased husband, and at every meal an 
offering of food was placed before it. The image of Ortik, one 
of their deities or deified heroes, was also often seen. This was 
only a bust, without legs, the face made of plated metal, the 
body a sack stuffed with hair and skins, the whole figure dressed 
in a linen frock. This suggests the idea that the transmission 
of the custom of erecting ancestor posts may have been from 
Siberia to the coast of America, for the use of the copper plates 
upon the totem posts of the Haidahs was very common in con- 
nection with their ancestor posts. Still the evidence is much 


stronger in favor of the transmission from New Zealand to this 
coast, for the resemblance between the New Zealanders and the 
Haidas is very striking. We here quote from Ensign Albert P. 
Niblack, United States navy, who has made a study of the Haida 
totem posts and has furnished the most valuable information in 
reference to them. 

Drawing a parallel between the Haidas and the New Zealand- 
ers, he says: "In point of physical resemblance both are of the 
Mongoloid type and both live on groups of islands whose climates 
are remarkably similar. Poole says of the climate of the Queen 
Charlotte Islands that the most graphic comparison he could 
draw was with that of the northern islands of New Zealand. 
Their political organization of the tribe, their ownership of. land, 
and their laws of blood revenge are similar. The men tattoo 
with designs intended to identify them with their sub-tribe or 
household, and they ornament their canvas, paddles, house fronts, 
etc., in somewhat the same manner as on the northwest coast." 
Dixon (1787) is quoted as saying that the cloaks of the Haida 
and Tlingit were the same as those worn by the New Zealanders, 
A Ilaida fortified house on an island of the Queen Charlotte 
group was built exactly on the plan of those of the savages of 
New Zealand. The adzes made of jasper, the cloaks of shred- 
ded bark, and the paddles from the Queen Charlotte Islands and 
those from New Zealand are so much alike that it takes a close 
inspection to distinguish them." 

We quote a description of a house, given by Featherman,* for 
it may be taken verbatim and applied to those on the north- 
west coast." "The frame was constructed of posts painted red, 
carved into an ancestral image. The sloping rafters were sup- 
ported by a ridge pole which was supported in the middle by a 
post, carved at the base to represent a human figure, who was 
represented as the founder of the family. In front of the an- 
cestral image was the fire place, which was a shallow excavation 
marked by four slabs of stone sunk in the ground. A narrow 
opening, only large enough to admit a man on bended knees, 
was used as an entrance. The roof was lofty, and projected at 
the front gable end so as to form a kind of awning, generally 
occupied by the head of the family. The house was surmounted 
at the end of the ridge pole by a carved human figure. The 
sleeping places were partitioned off on both sides of the room 
by low slabs of wood. There was no chimney ; the smoke could 
only escape through the door or window. The burial place was 
almost always within the enclosure, near the family dwelling." 
The description of the war canoes ot the New Zealanders will 
answer for that of the Haidas. They were the property of the 
whole tribe, and measured from 60 to 80 feet in length, 5 or 6 

♦See Featherman's "Social History of the Races," p. 170. 



feet in width, 4 feet deep, and capable of carrying about 80 per- 
sons ; the bow jutted out in the form of a spur and rose to the 
height of about 4 feet; the stern was from 12 to 15 feet high, 
2 feet wide ; both were ornamented with grotesque devices 
executed in bas relief At burial the body was placed in a canoe 
shaped coffin and was interred in some secluded spot in the forest 
and surrounded by a palisade. The body of a chief was placed 
in a tomb which was surrounded by carved figures, representing 

Fiij. Z.—Haida Houses and Totem Posts. 

the illustrious dead, with their tongues projecting from their 
mouths. The funeral ceremonies were concluded by immolating 
some of the wives and slaves of the dead chief. The corpse was 
buried. The clothes of the dead chief were preserved in a 
carved chest,' which was considered an heir-loom in the family 
and a sacred relic. All their gods were known by specific 
names and were recognized either as hero divinities — men who 
in ancient times had distinguished themselves — or were simply 
impersonations of the elements. 

' This description should be compared with the one given by 
Ensign Niblack. He says : "The carved columns are in front 



of the houses, generally in contact with the front, the doorway 
or entrance being through a hole in the column about three feet 
from the ground.* The villages are situated along the shore 
with the houses in a single row, a few feet above high water. 
The houses are not very lar apart. The beach in front of them 
serves as a street and as a place for hauling up canoes. At the 
end of the village is the grave-yard with its variety of sepulchers 
and mortuarv columns of ancient and modern form. Scattered 
through the village m front and at the corners of the houses are 
the commemorative columns. Each village practically consti- 
tutes a tribe. The canoes have 
projecting prows, high spear-sterns 
and flaring gunwales, and a grace- 
fully rounding cross-section. The 
war canoes are said to have formed 
a distinct class in themselves. The 
evidence is that the Haidas bor- 
rowed their style from the New Zea- 
landers. In confirmation we quote 

Ilif .:,.,.,,:, 

Fig. S.—Haida Houses. * 

further: The Haidas have been the center of impulse on the 
northwest coast, and in their development they may have influ- 
enced the adjacent tribes to a great degree, but the weight of 
evidence is that, with no great originality in themselves, they 
yet present the curious and puzzling circumstance that they 
extensively borrowed their ideas from the other stocks, but 
developed what they have borrowed with marvelous skill and 
independence. They seem in themselves to have typified or 
intensified the representative characteristics of the Indian stocks 
of the northwest coast. Whether they have originated or bor- 
rowed their ideas can not be made apparent with the data at 
hand, but it may be well to here state briefly the peculiarities of 
the Haida as they have struck the writer in their relation to the 
other Indians ot the region. 

The details of the method of house-building among the Haidas 
will be understood from the study of the cuts. See Figs. 2 and 
3. The living room was excavated below the surface, as seen 
in the dotted line. The fire-place was in the middle of the room. 
The totemic figures will be seen in the column in front. The 

*See sketch of house in Fig. 2. Entrance, .\: the fire, B. burns on the bare hearth 
or on a trame-work made of logs; there is an excavated interior; the upper ledge is at the 
level, D, lower platform at C. See also cut of a village on page 347. 



entrance to the house was through the column. The ornamented 
front of the house above represents the wolf totem. The orna- 
mented front with corner posts represents an ancient style of 
house-building. The house to the left has an ornamented front 
to represent the eagle totem. The column to the right represents 
the bear totem, with the frog at the bottom. Of the three houses 
given in Fig. 3, one shows the eagle totem, with the entrance 
through the whale; another represents the method of roofing and 
the details of the smoke-hole; the third represents the Thlinkit 
style of house front. 

III. The explanation of the commemorative columns found 
upon the northwest coast will be in place. We shall find that 
these contain the same general art forms as those found in New 
Zealand, but at the same time embody a mythology and a totem 
system, which was peculiar to the region. 

I. Let us consider this totem system. Mr. Frazer says that 

FUi. h.— Silver Bracelet. 

"while totemism as a religion tends to pass into the worship first 
of animal gods, and, next, of anthropomorphic gods with animal 
attributes, it was often localized." The peculiarity of totemism in 
North America was that it introduced a relationship, which cut 
across the kinship ot blood and introduced one of religion, and 
was entirely arbitrary. It was the source of a new lineage which 
was to be recognized wherever the totem was seen. The crest 
of one clan was enough to bring the members of all the clans 
which bore the same totem into a new and novel brotherhood. 
This relation was generally shown by the animal figure, which 
constituted a crest or coat-of-arms, though there were tribes — 
such as the Navajoes and the Apaches of Arizona — which had 
no animal names, but instead took topographical liames, such 
as red rock, salt springs, black water, grassy hill, coyote pass, 
Cottonwood jungle. Others took the names of plants — walnut, 
juniper, cottonwood, rush, willow, tree-in-water, arrow reed.* 

The system among the savages consisted in the identification 
of the individual with his totem under a specific name. Adair 
says: "When his lineage is known to the people his relations, if 

•See Journal of American Folklore, "Gentile Organization of the Apaches," Vol. Ill, 
p. Ill, by Washington Matthews. 



he has any, these greet him in a familiar way, invite him home 
and treat him as a kinsman." The clan totem is a material ob- 
ject, which a native regards with superstitious respect, believing 
that there exists between him and every person who bears the 
same totem a special relation which is equivalent to a blood kin- 
ship. They all believe themselves the descendants of a common 
ancestor, and bound together by common obligations and a 
common faith in the totem. This is seen in the customs formerly 
prevalent among the tribes in the Gulf States. The same custom 
now exists among the tribes on the northwest coast. Here an 
Indian, on arriving at a strange village, would look for a house 
indicated by its carved post as belonging to his totem, and make 
for it. The master of the house comes out, and perhaps makes 
a dance in honor of his visitor, and protects him from all injury. 
A captive is brought into the village, but it behooves those of 
his totem to present themselves to the captors and sing a sacred 

Fig. 5.— Silver Bracelet. 

song, and offer to redeem the captive. Here, then, we have the 
same system which prevailed among the savages of the interior, 
but modified, for in this case the father adopts the captive or the 
stranger, instead of the mother. The person becomes a member 
of the family rather than of the clan. This constitutes the main 
difference, a difference which has been brought about by the 
influence of ancestor worship beyond the sea. The mother rule 
has changed to the father rule. The clan has changed to the 
family as the unit of society, and we now have patriarchy with 
nearly all the features which distinguished that system in oriental 
countries. It was a change, however, which appeared mainly in 
the Haidas, for the Thlinkits still retain matriarchy. 

It was very rare that human figures were used to represent 
totems, though they were sometimes used to show the mythol- 
ogies which prevailed. Wherever the human figure is seen, we 
may conclude that a higher type of totemism has been introduced. 
Generally it is a type which has been influenced by sun worship 
or by ancestor worship, reverence for the animals having been 
transferred to the heavenly bodies. Among the Puebloes the sky 
was the habitation of the ancestors and the nature powers were 
deified, but the clans all retained the animal names, the clans of 
the Zunis being named the crane, eagle, bear, coyote ; those of 



the Jemez coyote, corn, pine, evergreen, oak, sun, eagle, water, 
antelope, and badger. There were no commemorative columns 
among any of these tribes of the interior ; but the letiches and 
the diminutive idols, which were adorned with the symbols of 
the nature powers, were to the Pueblos reminders of their divin- 
ities, just as the carved specimens, tablets, inscriptions and shell 
gorgets with human figures, served as reminders to the people 
farther east, such as the Indians and the Mound-builders. 

2. The ancestral columns are totemic, but they contain figures 
which illustrate the traditions, folklore and mythology of this 
singular people. The carved column in front of the model of 
the Haida house is an illustration. The surmounting figure rep- 
resents Hoorts, the brown bear, which is the totem of the head 
of the household. At the bottom is Tsing, the beaver, the totem 

Fig. 6, — Silver Bracelets. 

of the wife and children. Above it is the figure of the bear and 
hunter, which perpetuates the legend of the laison of the wife 
with a hunter, and is a warning to wives to be faithful to their 
husbands. It shows a belief in the possibility of human connection 
with animals. Above the bear and hunter is Tetl, the great 
raven, having in its beak the new moon, in its claws the dish 
containing fresh water. According to the legend of the creation, 
the raven stole the dish from the daughter of Kanuk, and flew 
with it out of the smoke-hole. He also stole from his uncle the 
new moon, which he imprisoned in a box. Above the raven are 
four disks, which serve as an index of the rank of the owner. 
Each disk commemorates some meritorious act. 

Another illustration is found at Fort Wrangel. Here there 
are two posts, one to show the descent on the female side, the 
other on the m.ale side. The genealogical column of the mother's 
side has at the top the eagle, the great totem or crest of the 
family; below that is the image of a child; below that the beaver, 
the frog, the eagle, the frog, all showing the generation and sub- 
families of the female side. The male totem has at the top the 


portrait of a chief wearing a conical hat ; below that is the family- 
crest, the crow ; next below a child, then three frogs, and at the 
base the eagle, the great totem of the builder's mother. In 
front of another chief's house a very natural-looking bear is 
couched on top ot a pole, gazing down at his black foot-tracks, 
which are carved on the sides of the column.* 

Another illustration is found in the plate which represents the 
columns found on Prince of Wales Islands, Alaska, as compared 
with the so-called "Tiki," which stands, together with several 
others, near the tomb of the daughter of the king of New Zea- 
land. Two of the columns from Alaska are evidently modern, 
for they contain the image of a priest with folded hands, and of 
an eagle resembling the American eagle. The angel above the 
priest and the figure of a man with hand pointing upward, signi- 
fying that in heaven the god of the white man dwells. The 
only native totem on this column is the eagle at the top, which 
is the crest of the chief Skowl, who is said to have erected the 
column in derision of the missionaries. f The other figure, to the 
left, represents the head of a European — white face and black 
whiskers; two figures of children, one on either side. This per- 
petuates the story of the disobedient children, who wandered 
away and were kidnapped by the trader. Below this is the crane, 
with an instrument like a draw shave in its hands. The crane 
was an expert with tools, but they were stolen, and the crane now 
utters the cry, "I want my tools!" The next below is Hoorts, 
the bear, holding in its paws the butterfly. It perpetuates the 
story of creation. When the raven, the great Tetl, created the 
world, the butterfly hovered over its head, and pointed to the 
place where the bear lived. Below this was the giant spider, 
sucking the blood of a man. The story is that the spider was 
an enemy to man, but it was taken by Teskanahl, the divinity, 
and thrown into the fire. Instead of burning, the spider shriveled 
up and turned into a mosquito and so escaped, carrying a small 
coal of fire in its claws. The mosquito does not kill a man, but 
sucks his blood and leaves a coal of fire in the bite. The lowest 
figure is Koone, the totem of the owner. The New Zealand 
post represents, in the lower figure, the dvinity Mani, who, ac- 
cording to the Maori tradition, fished up the islands from the 
bottom of the sea. The protruding tongue of the upper figure 
shows that it is one of the numerous defiant statues which abound 
on the islands. We notice an approximation to the horrid orna- 
mentation of the Mexican pillars, which represent their gods, but 
we find the four ornaments which remind us of the sacred num- 
ber of the wild tribes. 

3. We notice in all of these totem posts certain features uhich 
are common. First, the tall hat, which resembles that of the 

*See Alaska, "The Sitkan Archipelago," by E. R. Skidmore, p. 57. See Fig. 2, p. 340. 
tThe plate illustrating this will be found in Smithsonian Report for 1888, p. 327. 


Chinese, is over the heads of many. Second, the frog is carved 
upon the post, but is seldom used as a crest. Third, the eagle, 
the bear, the wolf and the crane, are generally the totems. 
Fourth, the raven is the great divinity, who was the creator and 
ruler of all. Fifth, the Orka, or whale-killer, a species of por- 
poise, the beaver, the dragon fly, sea lions and other figures are 
used to perpetuate certain legends. These are frequently com- 
bined together in a grotesque way, the tongue, generally, pro- 
truding from the mouth so as to make a connecting link between 
the figures, and the large eye being carved upon the different 
parts of each figure. Sixth, the totem posts are carved so that 
the figures rise one above the other, making a genealogical tree, 
but the pipes, dishes, rattles, paddles, mortuary boxes, paint 
brushes, and other tools, are carved pell-mell on the different 
sides. Seventh, the nature powers, wind spirit, clouds, man in 
the moon, thunder bird, are personified and carved in the shape 
of animals or human beings. 

The creator of all things and the benefactor of man was the 
great raven called by the Thlinkeets Yetl, Yeshl, or Yeatl,and by 
the Haidas, Ne-kil-stlus. He was not exactly an ordinary bird, 
but, like all old Indian mythical characters, had many human 
attributes, and the power of transforming himself into anything 
in the world. His coat of feathers could be put on or taken off 
at will like a garment, and he could assume any character what- 
ever. He existed before his birth, never grows old, will never 
die. Numerous are the stories of his adventures in peopling the 
world and giving to man the earth, fire, fresh water, life, fish, 
game, etc. 

This story of creation as well as belief in the cause of the 
changes of the weather, and a thousand other superstitions are' 
noticeable. The imagery is entirely that which is peculiar to the 
northwest, and contains the figures of whales, animals of the 
sea; bears, wolves and animals of the forest; eagles, cranes, 
ravens, creatures of the air, as well as many fabulous creatures, 
all of them peculiar to this region. Some have imagined that 
they recognized the monkey, but the grotesque figures with a 
human form and animal head, such as the wolf, beaver, etc, 
might be easily taken for a monkey. It is not likely that the 
monkey was ever seen, or portrayed, by the natives here. The 
conventional figure of the orka or whale killer, the bear, the sea 
lion, of the crab, crow, whale and other animals were often 
carved upon the boxes, tattooed upon the person, woven in the 
ceremonial blankets, and twined in the basket hats in such a 
way as to be recognized only by those who were familiar with 
the figures. Strips of silver (see Figs. 4 and 5) made into brace- 
lets, representing the bear and raven, show the custom of placing 
their totems upon their personal ornaments. The same custom 
is seen in the woven garments which cover the bed of the chief 

• :}l.V.>i 4i 








r ^ 











Shaks and in the Chilkat blankets which hans^ on the wall 
above his head. In this we have the bear totem repeated several 
times — the stuffed bear at the side, the woven bear on his gar- 
ments, another bear on the wall, a bear's head on the table. 

The ornaments are modern, but they contain the same symbol- 
ism as the ancient heir-looms. The same may be said of the 
carved pipes and other specimens. One of these already pic- 
tured* resembles a totem post. It represents at the top the figure 
of the eagle; next below, the orka, or whale-killer; next, the 
raven, known by its beak ; lowest down, known by its tongue.f 
The figure of the bear-mother is a slate carving, finished in the 
round. It perpetuates a legend.^ The daughter of a chief spoke 
in terms of ridicule of the bears. The bears descended and took 

Fig. 7.— Carved Slate Disk. 

her captive and made her the wife of the chief of the bears. She 
became the progenitor of all the Indians bearing the bear totem. 
The carving represents the agony of the mother in suckling her 
child, which was half bear and half human. The slate disk, (see 
Fig. 7) represents the orka or whale-killer. This is known by 
the fins, the nose and the eyes. We see from these specimens 
that the carvings are designed to perpetuate the legends, but that 
there was a different style of carving among the different tribes. 
Mr. Niblack says: "Every carving and pictograph is pregnant 
with meaning, but the task of tracing out the legends and com- 
paring them with those of adjacent regions is difficult. No idea 
of the ethnological affinities can be found withput comparison of" 

*Sce Fig. S in Chapter XIII, p. 278. 

tSee article on Ethnographic Religions, p. 311, Fig. 6. Xlbid., p. 312, Fig. 8. 


the mythology." Mr. James Deans, who is familiar with the 
different tribes, and has made a study of the totem posts, says 
that each tribe has its own way of carving and its own set of 
myths, so that one is not sure that he is giving the right inter- 
pretation unless he knows the tribe to which the carving belongs. 

The following is a description, given by Mr. Deans, of the 
totem posts and carved images which have been gathered from 
the different tribes of the northwest coast and placed in front of 
the Haida house, near the Anthropological building in Jackson 
Park, Chicago. He begins with a post not seen the cut, which 
contains many carvings of male and female figures. On the above 
mentioned column, reading from below, the first is the carving of 
an Indian with his head encircled by feathers. This represents the 
owner of the house in front of which this column stood. The 
second figure is the raven, called by these people Caugh. This, 
the raven, is the phratry or principal crest, along with the eagle 
phratry, of all these people. The next is the dogfish, which 
along with the raven phratry, was the crest of the man who had 
this house built for himself. The third figure is a man, perhaps 
designed to represent the owner of this totem post. The fifth 
figure is a woman with head-dress, and is evidently a figure of 
the housewife. Above her is the figure of a killer or fin-back 
whale, with two young ones, one on each side of its mouth. The 
sixth figure is the crest of the wife. The young ones show her 
to have had a family, which, like herself, would have the whale 
crest. The next or seventh figure is that of a woman, showing 
that the wife was connected by birth with the tribe in which she 
lived. The upper or last figure is the eagle, and designates the 
phratry to which she belonged. 

The second column (Fig. 8) is a Haida column. This house 
formerly stood in the middle of the Haida Indian village of 
Skidegat's Town, so called from its chief always taking the title 
of Skidegat. The house belongs to a man whose name formerly 
was Choscah, or raven. It was the first house in the village be- 
longing to the Cathlins Coan hadry (point of the waves people), 
who came and settled in the town of lllth-cah-gutla (hut between 
streams) called Skidegat's Town, as above mentioned. These 
people were driven from their home by tidal waves and by 
ravages of war. When they came to Skidegat they lived all 
together by building their houses in a row; their descendants live 
all together in the same style to-day 

The figures on the post are: lowest, the bear with man's head 
dov/nward; second is the spout-fish (lown); on each side of it is 
the Chemouse of the Sinesheans, which is a symbolization of a 
river snag, a floating snag or oftener a tree. To an Indian sail- 
ing down the rapid streams of the Pacific slope these snags are 
dangerous, and a superstitious dread has painted them as monsters 
of the worst kind ; so, in order to be safe, they adopted them as 



a crest. The Haida tribes borrowed this crest from these Sine- 
sheans. The next figure is a head with large eyes. It is shown 
as holding on with its mouth to the tail of the lown. This is 
the head of a bear as is shown by the tan giie (bear's ears) 
placed on each side of the head. From this head upward is a 
large dogfish. It is shown as having a woman on its back. 



Fiff. S.— Haida Totem Posts at the World's Fair. 

Above the woman's head is another bear's head, with tan gue. 
Above all is the tail of the dogfish, shown between two little 
images. The following I consider to be a correct reading of the 
carvings on this post: First, the bear with a man's head down- 
ward; amongst the natives of southern Alaska symbolized a 
strange custom. When any one built a house a slave was killed 
and his blood sprinkled on the post, his body generally being 
buried beneath it. the bear on the post being the crest of the man 
who built the house, and the man being the slave who was killed. 
I have been unable to find that such a thing as killing a slave for 


such a purpose was ever done amongst the Haida. In this case 
I speak knowingly, as I helped to dig up the post, and I found 
that no slave had ever been buried there. In fact the man who 
built the house says he killed no slave. 

There are two stories told by these Haida people with regard 
to a man's head being upside down on the post. The first I shall 
give is the one told by the builder of the house: The bear was 
the crest of the m^n Chaouk, by whom the house was built. His 
intention being not to follow the old usage of his people by 
having the doorway in the post, he had the man's head put on in 
order to have no blank space, as well as to exemplify an old 
story, which runs thus: Long ago, a little boy wandered away 
and got lost in the bush. A hungry bear found him and ate him 
up. The second story is founded on a usuage common among 
these people: If a man owed just debts to another, he was 
politely asked three times to pay it, and if then he refused, no 
more was said of the debt by the party to whom the money was 
owing, but he quietly waited until he had money enough to build 
a house, when, among other carvings, he had the image of the 
debtor put on in the shape of a man with his head down, and his 
crest above him, in order that the people might know who it 
was. j\ debtor seldom waited until the third time, well knowing 
the consequences. 

The next figure is the lown or spout fish. It was put on to 
show the crest of Choouto's first wife, who was a daughter of 
Crosaw, chief of Hieller, on these islands. The Chemouse on 
each side were put on for ornament more than anything else, al- 
though no doubt there was a connection between it and the wife. 
The two bears' heads above show a double relationship between 
this chief and the bears, which came about as follows: He inher- 
ited his uncle's crest, which was a bear, as well as the bear crest 
of the village Cathlins Coan (Point of the Waves), in which he 
was born. Together with these heads is a woman's head and a 
dogfish. This represents an old legend among these people, the 
legend of Hathlingzo (Bright Sunshine). She was a woman 
who, long ago, went to the open country in order to dig roots 
for food. After she had plenty, she went to the seaside to wash 
them. While there a dogfish came along and turned her into a 
sort of mermaid — half woman and half dogfish. This is said to 
symbolize the storm clouds, which, in that land of mountains, 
often quickly turn the bright sunshine to a storm. This story 
may also symbolize the Cathlins Coan hadry or people, when 
they left their own country and settled at Skidegat. The dog- 
fish being the crest of the town of Ilith-cah-gutla, or, as it is 
generally called nowadays, Skidegat's Town, from the chief, who 
also takes the name of Skidegat, so by becoming that town's 
people, they became entitled to the dogfish crest. The two 
wooden men with the tail of the fish between them, with Taden 


Skeel on top, may signify this man and his uncle Clads-an-Coond, 
and it may not. Probably they meant that he was a chiet at two 
times or places. The three circles, black and white, are three 
degrees of aristocracy. They also show that he was allowed to 
have three dances, and to wear circles around his neck while 
dancing. This carved column is forty-two feet in length and is, 
like all the others, made of red cedar. 

The third post is an Alaskan one from Tongass.on the south- 
ern boundary of that country. This one is also about forty-two 
feet in height. The carvings on it are: i. The lowest, a bear 
holding a raven, although it looks more like a fur seal, which I 
should certainly say it was if the post was a Haida one. 2. Next 
above is bear, a frog with a bear's tongue in its mouth, and a hat 
with eight rings. As for the signification of the carvings on this 
post, I may say that the bear at the bottom was the crest of the 
people whose house this was. The bear holding the crow or 
raven, as is shown here, would show that the bear and the raven 
were foes and that the bear had the best of him, though accord 
ing to the Haida tribes it would show an old legend about the 
bear and the fur seals. 3. Next above was the phratry of the 
man who owned this house. He also was one of the Cauhada 
gens. 4. Next above is the frog with the bear's tongue in its 
mouth, which showed the bear and the frog to have been friends. 
This frog I believe is the bear's wife's crest. The highest figure 
— the head and hat with eight degrees — must have been the 
husband, because the hat is on a bear's head. This post is badly 
finished. A Haidah carver would never put such a post out of 
his hands, and if he did he would be laughed at by the rest of 
the people. 

The next column, fourth in order, is a Haida post. It is of 
far better finish, and is worthy of a Haida. This post has for its 
figures, first and lowest, a scamsun or sparrow-hawk, the door- 
way to the house being in the belly of the bird. The next is a 
frog ; the next a being with a bear's head and a human body, 
holding on to the dragon fly; the next a crane; on the top is 
the Taden Skeel of three men, showing the chief's successors. 
This one, as well as No. 3, is exhibited by Mr. E. D. Ayer, of 
Chicago, 111, to whom, I believe, it belongs. The description 
given of this post is rather imperfect, and a stranger could glean 
but little information from it. The large bird on the bottom can 
hardly be called the sparrow-hawk. It should be called the 
mosquito-hawk. The Haida legend of its origin is as follows : 
Long ago the land was mostly covered with water, and when 
the water left it was very swampy. Then the sun was very hot, 
far hotter than it is nowadays. This swampy ground bred mos- 
quitos of an enormous size ; they were as large as bats. These 
bats are well known to most people from their habit of flying 
about by night. These insects were so large, and their bite so 


deadly, that many people died from them. The country was 
slowly being depopulated from this cause. The people com- 
plained until the god Ne kilst-luss heard their cry, and sent the 
butterfly to investigate. On its return, it gave a woful account 
of the people's condition. Hearing this, Ne-kilst-luss sent the 
mosquito-hawk to live on them and drive them away, which it 
did. Now that the sun is less hot, and scamsums plentiful, the 
people can live. One legend is that the scamsum was an enor- 
mous bird, which still lives in the mountains, from which it 
flies over the sea, in order to destroy the killer-whales, or, as 
the Haidas call them, the scannah. Its body is the thunder- 
bird, the clapping of its wings the noise, the lightning a fiery 
dart sent out of its mouth, in order to kill these whales. The 
next figure is evidently a frog, showing that the party who had 
this house was allied to that crest or gens, or, what is not unlike- 
ly, they might have been connected with Skidegat's family. The 
next is rather difficult to decipher, owing to the head, which is 
evidently a bear's, being upside down. It has the tan ^uc (bear's 
ears) on it plain enough, showing it was highly connected with 
the bears. From its mouth to the mouth of the figure above is 
a band, which is held by the under figure. This shows a con- 
nection between the two. In the third post it shows friendship 
existed between the two figures — that is, the bear and the frog. 
In this case the animals shown are different. The lower figure 
I consider to be a bear, and the upper I believe to be either 
a butterfly or a mosquito, and doubtless symbolizes the old story 
of the butterfly sent out by the ancient god Ne-kilst-lass. The 
figure above seems to be intended for the dragon fly, which also 
is an enemy to these pests; although I consider this portion of 
the carvings to be neither more nor less than a rendering of the 
above legend. A number of years ago I saw in the old village 
Yukh, Queen Charlotte's Islands, a rendering on a very old 
totem post of the same myth. The figure with the long beak is 
a crane or heron, and doubtless was the crest of the wife of the 
man who built this house. The three figures on top belong to 
the family of Skidegat. The first chief of that name adopted it 
in order to put on top of his column. It is a mythological tale 
of the west coast, and is as follows: Long ago the god, Ne- 
kilst-lass, for a frolic, turned himself into a beautiful woman, and 
three men fell in love with her and, some say, married her, al- 
though this totem post shows it belonged to one of Skidegat 
family. This ends the totem posts from northern British Co- 

The next is a house of a dififerent sort and belonged to the 
Quackuhls of Vancouver Island. Instead of a totem post these 
people generally paint their crests on the front of their houses. 
The paintings on this one represent the sun on each side of the 
doorway ,with the thunder bird above the door. This is the style 



of this bird, as is shown by these people. This house, the notice 
on side of the wall says, belonged to the Nu-enshu clan of the 
Quackuhls, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The next 
carving is a doorway from a house at Billa Coola, in the interior 
of British Columbia. It is a bear, and was the crest of the peo- 
ple who lived in the house. 

4. The study of the ornaments and figures on the mortuary 
boxes aids us greatly in interpreting the symbols found on the 
totem posts. These boxes were commemorative, but the figures 
are largely mythologic. To illustrate: The cedar box (see Fig. 9) 


Fiy. u.— Cedar Box. 

used by the Thlinkits as a depository for the ashes of the dead, 
contains on its front the figure of the bear, with eyes, ears, paws, 
mouth, breast, all portrayed in an allegorical way. The slate box 
(see Figs. 10 and ll), an heir-loom, contains on the lid two figures 
or faces. The upper one, with rows of teeth and protruding tongue, 
is lloorts, the bear. The figures in the upper corners represent 
tiie ears, with an eve in each. The lower figure on the lid con- 
tains the face and flippers of the sea lion. The head of the sea 
lion can be seen in the handle on each side of the box. The 
face in front is that of the bear, having in its mouth the hunter; 
the paws of the bear are in the lower corners. In the Ilaida 
drawings, an eye is placed in the breast, ear, paw, tail and other 
parts of the body, with the belief that each part has the power 
of looking out tor itself There arc certain conventional signs 
which indicate to the natives what animals are meant. With the 


brown bear, it is the protruding tongue; with the beaver and 
wolf, the character of the teeth ; with the orka, the fin ; with the 
raven, the sharp beak; with the eagle, the curved beak. Certain 
groupings are generally recognized as portraying certain well- 
known legends, such as the bear and hunter, the raven and 
moon. In the Chilkat blankets, the colors are interwoven to 
form a totemic pattern. These blankets are very common, and 
have become so conventional in their style that they are recog- 
nized. The figure of Hoorts, the bear, is common on them. 
The same is true of the ceremonial shirts, thoug-h sometimes the 
figure of the wolf is seen upon them, instead of the bear. It 
will be noticed that all parts of the body of the bear, such as 
the ears, paws, breast and legs, have eyes looking out. This 
illustrates the personifying tendency and at the same time shows 

/"'/(/ 10.— if^l(i/c Jlox 

the superstition which the people had. They imagined a spiiit 
io be in every part of the body. This spirit was able to rule 
and direct the part even as the totem spirit did the whole body. 
IV. The question of the origin of the ancestor posts here 
comes \ip. On this there will undoubtedly be a difference of 
opinion, for one class will hold that these originated on this 
continent independently, as the result of the system of develop- 
ment here, while another class will hold that they prove a contact 
between the races and are the result altogether of a transmitted 
cultus. Our position, as already indicated, is that the resem- 
blances between the Polynesian and the Haida symbolism is too 
strong to resist the conviction that much of it was borrowed. 
While there was an American system which consisted in the 
widespread totemism or animal worship, yet there was a Polyne- 
sian or Asiatic ancestor worship mingled with it, which gave a 
new tinge to and which ultimately resulted in that very unique 
system which is now our object of study. We maintain further 
that there was in Polynesia a very extensive esoteric system, which 
embodied in itself many of the religious conceptions which pre- 
vailed in the far east, and that the very conceptions were by this 


means transmitted and adopted by the natives and became em- 
bodied in these ancestor posts, the difference between the sym- 
bols of the two wide areas being owing to the underlying ground 
work, but the resemblances being owing to the transmitted ele- 
ments. We recognize the resemblances both in the customs and 
in the symbols, and shall therefore call attention to these and 
afterward point out the differences. 

The resemblances are very numerous. The following have 
been noticed as common in New Zealand: i. Cremation of the 
bodies and the preservation of the ashes. 2. The keeping of 
the head in a box or carrying it about the person. 3. The cre- 
mation of the husband and immolation of the widows and slaves. 
4. The burying of tfie bodies in canoes. 5. Erecting the statues 
with protruding tongues in the midst of cemeteries. 6. The 
preservation of garments and making them "taboo." 7. The 
glorifying the memories of heroes and ancestors by the carved 
figures. 8. Naming the divinities, and calling them ancestors, 

i-ifir. 11.— Lid of Uip Bur. 

and offering saciifices to them in the cemeteries. We can com- 
pare these with Ensign Niblack's description of the mortuarv 
customs among the Haidas: i. On the death of a chief the bod\', 
after lying in state for a year, is finally burned on a funeral pyre 
and the ashes and burned bones are deposited in a mortuary box 
or house. 2. Formerly the head was preserved separately in a 
box. 3. Certain slaves were selected to be sacrificed at the funeral 
of their master, and their bodies were cremated with his, that 
their spirits might accompany his to the next world. 4. In some 
cases pillars were erected, and the mortuary boxes were placed 
on them, while at the base of the pillar was the canoe, but in other 
cases the canoe itself became the burial place. 5. Carved columns 
and boxes and ornaments on which a protruding tongue connects 
the various figures are common. 6. The ceremonial apparel of a 
deceased chief was always placed with his personal property m 
boxes and preserved for many years. 7. The height and elabor- 
ateness of the carved columns were generally signs of the wealth 
of the individual. 8. The carving on the boxes, sculpturing on 


the rocks, and the drawings, paintings and tatooed patterns were 
"totemic pictographs" which perpetuated legends concerning the 
various divinities, which were either animals, birds or creatures 
of the sea, or in some cases wind spirits and nature powers, each 
represented by an eye in a wing, or limb, or claw. The symbols, 
however, illustrate how pregnant with meaning every carving and 
pictograph was, and how difficult a task it is to trace them out 
and compare them with those of adjacent regions, and how im- 
portant a knowledge of the legends is to the proper interpreta- 
tion of the figures. No idea of the ethnical affinities of the 
various stocks can be formed without comparative mythologic 
and ethnologic study. "In the ceremonial institutions, in the 
elaborate dance paraphernalia, in the carved heraldic columns, in 
the varied mortuary customs, in all the practices of highly im- 
aginative and inventive tribes of Indians; we have similarities 
and differences so beu'ildering, that it is difficult to trace the 
mutual influence of the different ethnic groups." 

Still the commemorative columns of New Zealand and the 
northwest coast are worthy of study. If they do not prove a 
contact between the two races, they show at least a transmission 
of religious conceptions, for there are many resemblances be- 
tween them. These consist in the position of the hands, the 
abdominal protuberance, the protruding tongue, the arrange- 
ment of faces and figures in stories, and the attitude and 
location of the images, as well as in the appearance of the 
phallic symbol. In New Zealand, the abdominal protuberance, 
the hands usually resting on the abdomen, represents the immor- 
tality of the soul and the longevity of the gods. Here, too, 
the tongue was significant, as it was a symbol of life, the pro- 
truding tongue signifying the departed life. It appears that in 
the act of death, the voice or spirit was drawn out by the god. 
The word «//// means, in the New Zealand language, to pull out. 
The nuns are sacred pieces of carved wood, with which the 
cemeteries were decorated. The Tiki in New Zealand was a 
protecting genius, a kind of household god or ancestral spirit. 

There were in the Exposition at Chicago two remarkable im- 
ages which illustrate the distribution of symbols throughout the 
entire western coast of America and on the various islands of 
Polynesia. One of these, from the Marquesas Islands, was in 
the collection of the University of Pennsylvania, in the Liberal 
Arts building. It represents the god Tiki Akau, and has the same 
attitude and position of hands that the Tiki from New Zealand 
have. The peculiarity of the idol is that there are symbols on 
either side of the wide open mouth like the horse-shoes and the 
double arches, which are sky symbols with the Zunis and Moquis. 
The hands also are apparently made to represent the phallic 
symbols — the four fingers making arches and the middle finger 
a single line. The other image was to be found in Emmons' col- 


lection in the Government building. It was labeled a shaman's 
guard — a spirit to protect the grave of a shaman. It is a lull- 
length image, and resembles the idol irom the Marquesas in the 
shape of the body and position of the arms and hands, but the 
expression of the face is more like that of an Indian. The 
peculiarity of it is that there are on the shoulders and breasts 
and the hollow of the thigh, carved heads of animals, the two 
animals' lower heads being near the pelvis, reminding us of the 
serpent heads which are seen projecting from the thighs of the 
gold figures of the Chiriquis, depicted by W. H. Holmes. On 
the northwest coast, the image over the grave of the shaman 
was supposed to be a spirit which guarded the shaman.* 

The phallic symbol is also significant in ^oth regions. Ellis 
speaks of certain carved figures or batons on which the divinity 
is represented by the phallic symbol. The same symbol is used 
on the northwest coast and signifies life as a gift of the divinity. 
The arrangement of the figures and faces in stories is also signifi- 
cant, for they betoken ancestry and a long line of descent, the 
number of stories proving the superiority of the family. 

Still further details in the symbols of the two regions may 
also be recognized. To illustrate : the custom of sacrificing a 
slave at the dedication of a house and planting the totem post 
over the body was formerly common among the Haidas, and 
weapons are still preserved which were used for the express pur- 
pose of slaying slaves. In New Zealand, Ellis says, some of the 
buildings for the abode of their Gods were actually laid in human 
sacrifices, and the central pillar supporting the roof of one of 
the sacred houses was planted upon the body of a man who had 
been offered as a victim. Similar resemblances may be recog- 
nized between the mythologic creatures of the two regions. There 
were many such mythologic divinities, some of them creatures 
of the sea, others of the land, and others of the air, ard yet all 
had nearly the same office — the shark serving the same office 
which the whale-killer did among the Haidas, a fabulous bird 
corresponding to the raven, and certain gods or genii serving as 
protective divinities, as the images protected the graves of the 
medicine men. The most romantic accounts are given of the god 
of the sea and his combat with the tempest, while the bird is sup- 
posed to dwell by the rock which was the foundation of the 
earth, and contained within himself the tempest, just as the raven, 
who was the great creator, was also the thunder-bird of the 
Haidas. The superior gods and men, the animals, the air, earth 
and sea were supposed to originate in the procreative power of 
the supreme god, hence the significance of the phallic symbol. 

Illustrations of these points may be found by studying the 
works of Ellis,t the missionary, and comparing the myths, espec- 

*The symbols on the Marquesas idol are given elsewhere. 
tSee Ellis" "Researches.'" Vol. I; pp. 97, 99. 2;S, 295. 


ially the myths of the deluge, the creation, about the Pleiades, the 
passage of the sun by a hidden path and many others, with 
myths which are extant in various parts of North America. 

V. The most important feature in the commemorative columns 
of the northwest coast remains to be considered, namely, the 
individual totemism which was embodied in them. These col- 
umns are called ancestor posts, but they are properly totem 
posts of individuals rather than of clans. Accordmg to Mr. 
Frazer, there are three kinds of totems: i. The clan; 2. Sex; 
3. Individual. The clan totem is the one which is the most 
common throughout the hunter tribes of the eastern coasts. The 
sex totem is more common among the Polynesian tribes, but the 
individual totem is the system we recognize among the Haidas 
and the Thlinkeets. In the first system there is no place in a 
tribe or clan for any person whose kinship is not fixed and only 
those persons can hold a totemistic relationship who are either 
born into a clan or adopted into a clan, with the artificial kinship 
specified. In the last case descent is important, but it is not 
absolutely essential, for rank and position depend upon one's own 
property or prowess or personal qualities. 

I . Individual tote mism can not be traced from ancestors directly, 
because it often exists where there is the most unsatisfactory 
recognition of ancestry, whether it be of paternity or maternity. 
The confounding of animals with their known ancestors, and 
reverencing them as they reverence ancestors, was a result of 
totemism among this people. The belief in a possibility of a 
human descent from natural objects, such as rocks, animals and 
trees, exists universally among primitive peoples, but this belief 
here took the shape of regard for certain creatures of the sea or 
land or air, and gave rise to a wonderfully varied and grotesque 
series of myths concerning these animals, which became em- 
bodied in the many and elaborate symbols. According to this 
system the individual became so fully identified with his totem, 
which was generally one or another of these fabulous animals, 
that neither his own name or that of his parents could be made 
known, tor it was entirely swallowed up in the name and history 
of the animal whose totem he bore. As a result, the columns 
were no longer the records of the clan or the tribe, but they 
were erected for the exaltation of the individual and of his family 
while living, or for the glorification of his name after he was 
dead. This exaltation, however, depended more upon the amount 
of property which the individual had accumulated than upon 
personal prowess or upon genealogical descent. 

In a strict sense, the village was the tribal unit; but the head 
of the household in the village which, through inheritance, 
numbers and influence, predominated over the others, was nom- 
inally chief of the village. Besides the principal chief there were 
others who were the heads of the principal households or clans 


of the village; their rank or claim to distinction and respect was 
proportioned to the degree of their wealth, age, superiority, the 
general good fortune and prosperity of the group of persons 
of which they were the head. The chief was not treated with 
any marked deference on ordinary occasions, but in ceremonies 
a degree of state was formally kept up to impress visitors. Often 
the alliance of the medicine men was gained by purchase, and 
the chief and shamans combined to hold themselves in the res- 
pect and fear of the community. The chiefs generally had a 
carpenter in their household who was especially expert in build- 
in"- houses, carving wood, stone, horn and bone, slate and metal 
implements and ornaments, and household utensils; though there 
we're wood carvers whose specialty was to make and paint 
totemic or mortuary columns. Some of the women were expert 
basket makers, and weavers of cloaks and mats of cedar bark and 
wool, makers of dance and ceremonial costumes. Tattooing 
was a fine art and was common to both sexes. The figures or 
conventional representations of their totems, pricked in charcoal 
or black pigment, served to identify the individual with his totem. 
The ceremonial masks and head dresses of thechiet were made 
by his carpenter. These masks were painted with the totemic rep- 
resentations of the owners, and. were, by their hideousness and 
grotesqueness, calculated to strike terror into the minds of the 
spectators, and to give the appearance of some superhuman be- 
ing to the person who wore them. The completeness of the 
disguise was an object with the chiefs as well as the medicine men, 
so they were careful not to show their own faces. This disguise 
of the person under the semblance of his totem was continued 
after death, so that the mortuary boxes and the ceremonial 
blankets in which his ashes were deposited were covered with 
the totemic figures instead of portraits. 

2. A ceremonial ownership came in along with individual totem- 
ism. The relief carving on the totemic columns and totem posts 
was done either by the owner or by persons hired for the pur- 
pose. This carving was often arbitrary and fanciful, and yet 
identified the individual with his totem while he was livmg and 
after he was dead, and introduced a sort of ceremonial owner- 
ship which was carried out in painting or carving his crest on 
every article of personal property. The simplest implement or 
utensil is ornamented with some pictograph relating to the 
legends of the totem to which he belongs. Tattooed on the 
body, woven into fabrics, etched on the metal bracelets and orna- 
ments, painted on the house fronts, drawn on the canoe outfits, 
emblazoned on metal, wood and stone, the totem of the Indian 
is his earliest and latest care. 

The totemic ownership extended to the canoe, the paddles, the 
houses, the villages, as well as to the utensils and tools. In the 
case of the canoe the totem was indicated by carving or painting 


the bow and stern with elaborate totemic patterns. The canoe 
is to the northwest coast what the camel is to the desert and the 
horse is to the Arab. It reached its highest development here. 
Classified according to shapes, sizes and uses, there were four 
kinds — hunting, family, transporting and those used in time of 
war. They were all adorned more or less with totemic sem- 
blances. The houses in the villages were also totemic in 
character. Formerly the doorway or entrance was through a 
hole in the carved column, and the posts within the houses were 
generally covered with carved figures. The villages are invaria- 
bly situated along the shore, the houses arranged near a shelving 
beach in rows, with one or more carved columns in front of 
each. At the end of the village is the grave-yard, with its 
variety of sepulchres, and scattered throughout the villages, in 
front and at the corners of the houses, are the mortuary columns 
similar to those in the grave-yards. Each village practically 
constitutes'a tribe, but the totemic system often operated to make 
the alliance between the phratries and totems of different villages 
stronger than the clannish feeling due to close ethnical affinity 
of any particular household. Still there were villages which 
were brought under the control of some one chief and were 
held under a suzerainty. An individual distinguishes himself 
and becomes wealthy and a leading man in the village. His 
totem, which has been an obscure one, rises in importance. 
Under his successor the totem widens in its number and influence 
and finally comes to be ranked as a ruler over a territory. There 
was, in fact, a change from tribal or clan descent to property, 
and the territory over which the chief held, sway was the limits 
of the totemic rule. 



We have now passed over the entire region occupied by the 
uncivilized tribes and have considered their religions in their 
order. We have found that various animals, the serpent, the 
sun and moon, fire and water, idols and human images, myth- 
ologic creatures, winged creatures, ancestors, and even the 
cardinal points were, in a manner, worshiped by them, the cult 
varying according to the locality. There remains, however, one 
important work, that is to trace out the particular personal 
divinities and to identify them by name and locality, and to 
describe the office and character which they bore in the minds of 
the people. This is a work which has been done for nearly all 
civilized races, both in the east and the west, and there are few 
divinities anywhere, whether in historic or prehistoric times, 
which are not known by name. A sort of classical mythology 
could be written about them, but somehow the divinities of the 
uncivilized races are not so well known and so every dictionary 
is destitute of their names. The task is a difficult one, and yet 
there are certain things which aid us greatly in identifying these 
aboriginal divinities. 

1. In the first place, the chief divinities were generally "Culture 
Heroes," which were regarded as the tribal ancestors and guardian 
spirits, but also as great creators and transformers, the beginning 
of nearly all tribal history, going back to the creation. 

2. The character of these "Culture Heroes" generally corres- 
pond with that of thepeople who worship them, those of the lower 
or degraded tribes having a very low character, and those of the 
more advanced tribes being characterized by exploits which were 
full of a certain kind of barbaric heroism. 

3. The myths which perpetuate the names and exploits of the 
divinities, especially those of the "Culture Heroes," generally con- 
tain an imagery which remarkably corresponds with the scenery 
of the habitat over which these divinities had their sway. The 
study of the scenery in particular localities is a great aid in 
identifying them. 

4. There are occasionally certain traditions connected with 
certain objects in nature, such as rocks and caves, streams and 
waterfalls, lakes and sandy beaches, trees and mountains, rivers 
and oceans, which convey the ide% that these scenes were con- 
tinually haunted by the spirits of the divinities. The influence 


of these traditions was felt so much that savages rarely passed 
by the objects without making an offering to the spirit of the 

5. Various relics are found in the different parts of the conti- 
nent which may be taken as images of the divinities, or as 
embodying the myths concerning these divinities. These relics 
are in the shape of carved pipes, engraved shells, masks, rock 
inscriptions, amulets and charms, idols, as well as the figures on 
the inscribed rocks and on the effigies of earth, nearly all of 
which were designed to be symbols of the supernatural powers. 
The study of the relics, and especially the comparison of their 
peculiarities with those given in the myths, will enable us not 
only to identify the divinities, but to carry back the cult to pre- 
historic times, thus showing that the same "Culture Heroes" 
were worshiped in the earlier and later times. 

With these points in mind, we propose now to go over the 
territory occupied by the uncivilized tribes, taking the different 
tribal groups in their order, and making a special study of the 
divinities which were the most prominent in those groups, and 
especially those which were regarded as their culture heroes. 
We shall begin with the rude fishermen of the north and search 
out their myths, with the idea of ascertaining the chiet divinities. 
We shall then pass to the hunter tribes on the northwest coast, 
from those to the hunter tribes along the chain of the great 
lakes, from these to the nomadic tribes of the prairies, and from 
these to the mountain tribes of the Central and Southern States, 
leaving out the tribal divinities of the Gulf States as belonging 
to a solar cult, which is very different from that of the wild tribes. 
We shall find that in all these northern regions, the chief divini- 
ties are presented under animal names and animal shapes, though 
many of them were nothing more nor less than the personification 
of the nature powers, but clothed with the imagery which the 
prevalent totemism or animal worship would suggest. Many of 
these are "Culture Heroes," which were common to all the tribes, 
having a similar character everywhere. These bear such resem- 
blance to the "World Makers" of the old world that we are forced 
to believe that there was a transmission of legends and traditions 
from other continents which filtered through and effected the con- 
ception which the natives had of the creation. Occasionally 
there is a trace of that grand perception of a supreme being, who 
was the great first cause of all, exactly as there was among the 
earliest races of the far east, and in classic lands, and which is 
an inherent quality in human nature, however much it may be 
obscure d. 

I. We begin with the divinities of the Eskimos, taking the 
entire group which occupied the shores of the Arctic sea, and 
which stretched from Greenland to Alaska, embracing the cen- 
tral districts, The chief divinity and culture hero was a phan- 



torn, in the shape of a hucfe dog, which was really the spirit of 
the sea, though the spirit figures in the shape of a woman, 
called Sedna, who lives in the sea. There are, beside this, other 
divinities which were personifications of the nature powers. One 
of these figures is a triad in the shape of three sisters, the three 
symbolizing the different parts of the thunder storm. One ot 
them strikes the fire and makes the lightning {liigiilitung), 
another rubs the skins and makes the thunder [Udlugitiing), the 
third makes the rain and is a rain god. They live in a house 
made of whale ribs. Their faces are entirely black, reminding 
us of the thunder clouds, but they wear clothes which symbolize 
the rain clouds. There were supernatural beings among the 
Eskimos who were owners of the stars and constellations and 
revolve with the stars. There are also other spirits which haunt 
the rocks, but which are in the shape of bears, birds and other 
animals. They are called tornaits. 

The tornait of the stones live in the large boulders, which are 
supposed to be hollow and form a house, the entrance of which 
is only visible to the Angakoq or Shaman. The bear is the 

Firi- t.— The Whale Killer. 

most powerful among the spirits. The spirits of the dead are 
also very active. They knock wildly at the huts which they 
cannot enter. There are also spirits in the air. When the 
storms rage and the sea breaks from its icy fetters, and the ice 
floes break with loud clashes, the Eskimo believes he hears the 
voices of these spirits. Sedna, the great divinity, lives in the 
sea, and is the divinity of the sea. She is sometimes controlled 
or summoned by the Shaman or Angakoq. She comes up 
through the hard rocks, and the wizard hears her heavy breath- 
ing. She is harpooned and sinks away in angry haste. 

The deluge myth prevails among the Eskimos, but it may 
have come from the missionaries. Still there is one feature of 
the myth which is very remarkable. The story is, that the 
waters rose to the top of the mountains, but after they retired 
they left the mountains covered with a cap ot ice. Some think 
that this is a tradition of the glacial period, others that it is only 
one method of accounting for the glaciers which still exist in 
Alaska and elsewhere. There is also a myth concerning the man 


- I> 





















in the moon. The same tradition of the "man in the moon" is found 
among the Haidas. The story, according to Judge Swan, is as 
follows: The moon, >^^(?;/^, discovered the man, Ecthlinga, about 
to dip his bucket in a brook for water. It sent down its rays, or 
arms, and caught the man, and took him, with his bucket, up to 
itself, where he has since lived, and can be seen every lull moon, 
when the weather is clear, The man is a friend of T'kjtl, the 
spirit of the winds, and at the proper signal empties his bucket, 
causing it to rain upon the earth.* 

The Eskimos have perpetuated the name and memory of their 
chief divinities by identifying them with the objects of nature 
and making the very rocks and streams and heavenly bodies to 
be their abodes. There is one remarkable thing left out from 
their mythology, namely% the northern lights. There may be, 
indeed, myths in reference to these, but they are not on record. 
There is a myth concerning the northern lights among the 
Chippewas. The story is that during one severe winter famine 
and distress came upon the people. An old chief, the oldest 
man in the nation, was informed in a dream that the anger of 
the great spirit could be appeased by human sacrifice. Lots 
were cast and three braves were selected for sacrifice. The spot 
selected was the summit of a neighboring hill covered with 
woods. The three were fastened to sticks and burned alive, by 
the magicians, in silence, unattended by spectators. The weather 
moderated and afterward there was an abundance of game — 
buffalo, bear and deer — in every wigwam. A feast of thanks- 
givings was offered. During this ceremony the northern sky 
was illuminated by brilliant lights. Among the lights three huge 
figures of a crimson hue were seen constantly dancing. These 
the magicians proclaimed to be the ghosts of the three warriors 
who had been offered in sacrifice. 

II. We turn next to the divinities of the Haidas and Thlinkits. 
The chief divinity and culture hero of this region is the raven. 
This may be, perhaps, considered as a spirit of the forest, and 
at the same time a personification of the nacure powers. The 
raven was the creator and ancestor of all the tribes. There were, 
however, other divinities which were the spirits of the sea. 
Among these, the whale killer, a species of porpoise, was the 
chief. There is a figure carved on the rocks near Fort Wiangel, 
Alaska, which represents the orka or whale killer. See Fig. i. 
Many other animals and birds, which were common on the 
northwest coast and nowhere else, were regarded as super- 
natural beings. 

The Smithsonian has furnished various cuts which represent 
human faces and conventional signs, which were carved upon 
the rocks. These show that the same superstition which pre- 

*See Smithsonian Report for 1888, p. 323. 


vailed among the Eskimos prevailed also among the Haidas, that 
the rocks were haunted by spirits. The same superstition also 
seems to have prevailed among the uncivilized tribes elsewhere. 
This is illustrated by the mammiform images from Porto Rico, 
which represent both the shape of the island and the guardian 
divinity of the island.* 

There is an image found inscribed on the rocks in the Easter 
Islands which represents a mythical creature, half human and 
half animal, with bowed back and claw-like arms. According 
to the natives this was intended to represent the god Meke- 
Meke, the great spirit of the sea. Mr. William J. Thomson says 
the figure bears a striking resemblance to the decoration on a 
piece of pottery which he once dug up in Peru while making 
excavations in the graves of the Incas. See Fig. 2. This animal 
might be taken for a monkey. 

Mr. James Terry and others have claimed that the monkey 
mav be seen carved upon the totem posts of the Haidas. No 
such animal figure, however, has been found on the northwest 
coast. The figure which he has taken to be the monkey is 
nothing but the bear with the human face and form. 

There are many myths which are descriptive of these ancient 
creatures. These myths are often very beautiful, for they are 
full of word pictures which bring the scenery before us, but at 
the same time are full of fabulous adventures, and show the 
strange imaginings of the natives in which the sea, land, and the 
creatures of the earth and water and sky were all mingled 
together. Images of these divinities were frequently embodied 
in the sculptured figures, were woven into garments, or were 
tattoed upon the bodies of the natives. The myths and symbols 
served to perpetuate their memory and make them very sa:red 
in the minds of the people. At times the individuals would 
tattoo the figure of different animals upon their persons — upon 
their arms, breast, and legs, conveying the idea that each part of 
the body was controlled by a different divinity. There are 
figures in the reports of the Ethnological Bureau which repre- 
sent this. In one a man has a fish tattooed on his arm, a cod split 
open on his breast, on each thigh the octopus, below each knee the 
frog. The back of the same man has the wolf split in halves 
and doubled. A woman has on her breast the head and fore 
paws of a beaver, on each shoulder the head of an eagle, or 
thunder bird, on each arm the halibut, on the right leg the 
skulpin, on the left the frog.f 

The Haidas have many myths about the raven, the whale, 
the wolf, bear, salmon, and whale-killer, all of which were totems; 
stories of their adventures as human beings, which are exceed- 
ingly novel and interesting. Occasionally there is a trace of sun 

*See chapter on EthnoKraphic Religions. See Report of Romers Collection of Relics 
from Porto Rico. tSee Annual Report for 1892, p. 69. 



worship, for the sun and moon are personified here, as among 
other races, but it is a sun worship which is mingled with animal 
worship. One tradition is that the sun descended from heaven, 
in the shape of a bird, and was transformed to a man. He 
built a house, and on his house front, on either side of the door, 
a sun was painted. The uprights represented men carrying suns. 
These were the slaves of Senttae, the sun. The crossbars con- 
necting the uprights were also men, but the beams were sea lions. 
Thus we see all the kingdoms were mingled in their mythol- 
ogies, the animal, the astronomical, and the human, to represent 

Fig. S— Image on a Rock, Easter Islands. 

the divinities which ruled the people. There is one heraldic 
column, or gens tree, on which at the top there is a slave extend- 
ing his hand as though he were talking. His name signifies "he 
who gives presents to strangers." Above the man is a mask 
surrounded by wooden rays, which represent the rays of the sun. 
There are also masks which the natives use in their dances, 
which have the beak of a bird, and are surrounded by a circle 
which represents the sun, but have a human eye. The masks 
worn in leasts often represent birds, animals, and human faces. 
These masks embody legends which are preserved about their 
divinities, which were birds, animals, human beings and ancestral 
spirits. The myths are also suggestive. These are full of 
descriptions of the gods of the sea and land and sky, though 
they bear the human semblance. One myth represents a man 
with lung hair, who is the spirit of the sea. The myth is 
embodied in a column. In this, the man with a split skull 
stands on his head. Above him is another man seated. Above 


this man is a wolf, and above that a beaver. The uppermost 
figure is a halibut. Here, then, we have again creatures of the 
sea, wild beasts of the forest, and human figures, all mingled 
together in myths and symbols, and covered with the air of the 
supernatural. Some of these myths are very suggestive, for they 
remind us of legends which were common among the Greeks, as 
well as of the traditions which are contained in the Scriptures. 
In one carved column, one figure represents Vet/ with the new 
moon in its bill, and a dish of fresh water in its claws. The 
story is that he stole the stars from the boxes in which they were 
imprisoned by the lord of the tides. When the sun shone forth 
for the first time, all the people were frightened and ran in all 
directions — some of them into the mountains, some into the 
woods and some into the water. This was connected with the 
discovery of fire, thus repeating the legend concerning Prometheus, 
who discovered fire and let out the spirits from the box. There 
is also another story of the sun that broke away and burned 
its path in the sky, reminding us of Phoebus and his chariot. 

How such myths came to be prevalent here is the mystery." The 
same is true also of other myths, as for instance, the one which 
reminds us of the story of Jonah in the whale's belly. The myth 
is that the raven went into the whale's belly, which frantic with 
pain, rushed ashore, while the invisible Hooyeh (raven) walked 
quietly out and was ready for another adventure. There is a 
variation of the same story, in which the whale killer is repres- 
ented as in the whale's belly. This whale killer was believed to be 
a demon called Skana. He could change himself into any shape. 
The story is that the whale killer was kept alongside of a canoe. 
The young men amused themselves by throwing stonesathim and 
broke his fin. Upon this the whale killer changed himself into a 
canoe, partly broken, with a man by the side of it, who exclaimed, 
"You have broken it." Next the canoe is seen going over the 
first breaker, with the man sitting in the stern. When the canoe 
came to the second breaker, it went under and came up outside 
of the breakers a whale killer and not a canoe, and the man or 
demon in the belly of the whale killer. This is a common anec- 
dote with all the tribes of the northwest coast, and is of ancient 
origin, antedating the coming of the white man. See Plate.* 
There is another drawing among the Haidas, which symbolizes 
the winds and clouds; the center figure is Tkiil, the wind spirit; 
on the right and left are its feet, which symbolize the long 

*In the plate. Fig. i represents the legend of the raven and the fisherman. According 
to the story, Skana put on a magic hook to his line and caught the raven. He pulled the 
raven's beak entirely off, when the raven changed to a man. Fig. 2 represents the moon, 
who drew the man up with his bucket of water. Fig. 3 represents the raven in the belly of 
the whale. Fig. 4 represents the raven who has the power of changing himself into any 
shape. Fig. 5 represents the wind spirit. The Chilkat blanket and ceremonial shirt show 
the totemic legend of the owner and represents Hoortz, the bear. The legs and feet are 
drawn up at the side. The face is in the middle, reminding us of the figure on the "Gest' 
stone, which has a human face at the top, the legs, arms, hands and feet are bent up at the 
sides. This is a human-tree image, instead of a human animal. 


streaming clouds, and on each side above are the wings, which 
symboh'ze the different winds, each designated by an eye and 
separated by patches of cirrus clouds. When T'knl wants a 
certain wind to blow he gives the word and the o<"her winds 
retire. The change in the wind is usually followed by rain, 
which symbolizes the tears which stream from the eyes of T'kiil. 
But we need not dwell longer upon these myths. It is plain 
that the nature powers were personified, and that the names of the 
divinities were identical with the various animals and creatures 
which abound here. 

III. The divinities of the Algonkins are next to be considered. 
The chief divinity and "Culture Hero" of this wide-spread stock, 
seems to have been the personification of the dawn, under the 
figure of the rabbit. It reminds us very much of the divinities 
of the far east, which figured under the shape of a hare. The 
religious conceptions of the Algonkins were very striking, for 
they represent this dawn god and culture hero to be the great 
creator and ancestor who survived the flood. The divinity is 
draped in the imagery which is taken from the scenery amid 
which the Algonkins lived. It is very easy to identify him as 
the divinity of the Algonkins on this account. Still we must re- 
member that there were different divinities among the Algonkins 
and that they varied according to the locality over which they 
had sway. This shows how strongly this people, which belonged 
to the same stock, were influenced by their surroundings.* They 
were a wide-spread people, whose habitat stretched from Hud- 
son's Bay to the north of the Potomac, and from the banks of 
Lake Superior to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. They were a 
wild hunter race, and their divinities were such as hunters would 
be likely to worship. There were differences in their gods, but 
they were differences which came from their surroundings rather 
than from inheritance. We shall make subdivisions of their 
territory, and study the correspondence between the imagery 
which they have used and the scenery of the specific region, for 
this is very striking, 

I. We begin with the gods of the Abenakis. These generally 
bore the shape of animals, but mainly animals vvhich were known 
to the Abenakis — wolf, fox, whale. Still there was a personal- 
ity about their animal gods which made them seem to be almost 
human, for the lines between the animal and the human were 
entirely obliterated and all were blended into a combined picture, 
in which the scenery served as a background. They had their 
sway in the eastern provinces, and were very unlike the divini- 

*Dr. Boas says: The comparisons which we have made show that each group of legends 
has its peculiar province, and covers a certain partion of our continent. VVe found a num- 
ber common to the North Pacific and Arctic coasts, .\nother series we found common to 
the territory between the North .Atlantic and the Middle Facific coasts The Kiowa tale ' 
and the northwestern tale indicate a third group, which seems to extend along the Rocky 
mouni^xns.— Folklore Journal, January-March, iSgi, p. i8. 


ties which ruled the region along the great lakes and which were 
reverenced by the western tribes, such as the Mississaugas, 
Menominees and Ojibways. Various reasons have been given 
for this dissimilarity in the gods of the Algonkins, some writers 
ascribing it to the influence of the scenery and surroundings, but 
others recognizing in it the effect of contact with other countries. 
Mr. Charles Leland says that the myths which are still afloat 
among the natives of the eastern tribes along the coast of Maine 
have great resemblance to the Scandinavian myths, and makes 
• out that the gods which ruled here were exact counterparts of 
the Scandinavian gods. He also suggests that these myths were 
introduced by the Norsemen, during their various voyages, long 
before the times of Columbus, and that they were adopted by the 
natives with which they came in contact. This, however, does 
not account for the strange character of the myths of the western 
tribes, for if the eastern myths contain fragments of the ancient 
Sagas, the western myths contain the fragments of the still more 
ancient Scripture story, the location of these being still farther 
in the interior and more remote from any historic country. 

There is something very mysterious about this transmission of 
myths? Why are there so many more resemblances to the 
Scripture narrative in the myths of the Algonkins than in those 
of any other tribe? Shall we admit that there were strange 
visitors among the natives of the region, concerning whom theie 
is no record at present, and that these visits, whether of pagan 
Norsemen or Icelandic Christians, had the effect to introduce 
among the natives the stories which abounded both in the "Eddas" 
and in the sacred Scriptures? We do not claim for any American 
race the marvelous feat of remembering Scripture traditions 
throughout all their history, for we ascribe the preservation of 
these traditions in Europe to a written literature. Whatever 
portion of the tradition is found among the Algonkin tribes 
must have come from a filtering process, rather than from the 
embalmment of tradition. May it not be that there were influ- 
ences which crept down from the early colonies in Iceland and 
transmitted both pagan and Christian legends, and that the Al- 
gonkins of the east and of the west appropriated them, but 
clothed them in imagery drawn from the different localities? 

Carlisle makes the Scandinavian myths a development of 
paganism. "There was a natural religion which brought a recog- 
nition of the forces of nature as godlike and personal agencies as 
gods and demons not inconceivable to us." "The infant thought 
of man, opening itself with awe and wonder on this ever stupen- 
dous universe, might bring out something very genuine." "The 
work of nature, for every man is the fantasy of himself, the 
image of his own dream." But how these facts of Scripture 
history could be suggested by the works of nature is difificult to 
understand. "These do not come from the unnamable subtleties 


of spiritual law, to which many pagan fables owe their shape." 
The Abenakis are supposed to have held the great eastern di- 
vinity — the sun — as their "Culture Hero," while the western tribes 
situated on the great lakes are supposed to have had the rabbit 
and the muskrat and loon as their chief divinities, because these 
animals were better adapted to the water and to the scenery of 
the interior. 

The myths which have been gathered by certain writers — Rev, 
S. T. Rand, Mrs. W. Brown and others — illustrate this. They 
are legends which are affixed to certain spots, which serve to 
make them sacred to the minds of the natives. The objects of 
nature thus became myth bearers, and through the influence of 
these traditions are still reminders of the strapge divinities which 
ruled here. There are not many divinities, and such as are 
spoken of, were personifications of the different animals which 
abounded, such as the whale, the wolf, the wolverine and the 
moose, the wolverine being the divinity which corresponded to 
the Scandinavian Lo^i and was called " Loks." The story of 
the creation, or rather the deluge and re-creation of the earth, is 
not conspicuous among the Abanaki traditions. In place of 
this there is a series of transformations and local adventures in 
the forests and in the sea. and which makes the whole scenery 
alive with supernatural beings, very much as the scenery in the 
north is filled with the spirits of the divinities which the Eskimo 
worshiped and as the Scandinavian scenery was alive with the 
spirits of the pagan divinities.f 

2 We turn now to the divinities of the western tribes, including 
those of the Delawares, Ojibways, Blackfeet, Ottawas and Crees. 
Here we find animal divinities again, but the chief of the divini- 
ties is a sort of culture hero and creator. He presides over the 
territory of each tribe and is identified by certain objects in that 
territory. His name varies according to the tribe m which he 
rules, though there is a similarity between the names. He is 
called by the Delawares Manibozho and is identical with the 
hare, the giant rabbit.* Among the Menominees he was called 
the Manibush. He was born from a virgin, the daughter of 
Nokomis. He was a little white rabbit with quivering ears. He 
was the means of destroying the evil manitou, or the great fish. 
He transformed himself into a pine tree, but he at last went away 
and dwelt in a wigwam which is preserved in a large rock near 
Mackinaw.'!" This rock is noted for the tradition which still 

♦Journal of American Folklore, September, 1891, p. 193. Ojibways, Nanaboghu; Nipp- 
sings, Wisakedjak; Crees, Wisakketchak; Massasaugas, VVanibozhu: Menominees, Mani- 

t In the Ottawa legend. Nenaw-bo-zhoo is swallowed by a great fish that dwelt in a cer- 
tain lake. He is identified by certain objects of nature, as follows: On a smooth rock on 
tlie Ottawa river, there are prints of human footsteps, and a round hole about the shape and 
size of a kettle. These are believed to be the tracks of Nenaw-bo-zhoo, and the kettle 
which he had dropped. The great rocks of flint on the east shore of Grand Traverse bay 
are the bones of the stone monster, his brother, whom Nenaw-bo-zhoo slew. A depression 
in a rock near Thunder Bay Point is Nenaw-bo-zhoo's grave, and a mountain, some ten 


lingers about it. It is in the shape of a wigwam and is still 
sacred to the hare. The island itself is in the shape of a turtle 
and is supposed to be possessed by the turtle divinity.* 

Dr. Brinton says the names of the four brothers were, Wabun, 
the east; Kabun, the west; Kabibonokka, the north, and Shawano, 
the south. Wabun was the chief and leader. The tribes on the 
Potomac in 1610, said, "We have five gods, the chief is the 
mighty hare, the other four are the four winds; the rays of light 
are his servants; the morning star, which heralds the dawn, was 
sacred to him; seated at the east, at the place where the earth 
was cut off, in his medicine lodge, he sends forth his messengers, 
called Gijigonai, to make the day." 

Among the Winnebagos the earth-maker was called Maiuina, 
the wolf When the world was created he was sitting on a piece 
of ground tacing the east, because the east was the source of 
light. At the creation there were four brothers. The green 
wolf, black wolf, white wolf and grey wolf It is very likely 
that some of the wolf effigies which prevail in Wisconsin were 
identified with the name and memory of this divinity. 

The most remarkable account of the culture hero of the 
Algonkins is the one which was preserved by the Delawares in 
the book which was called the "Walum-Olum." According to 
this account the rabbit was the chief divinity as well as creator. 
The account is given elsewhere. We only call attention to it 
here to show the similarity of the conception among the Algon- 
kins everywhere. 

We take it for granted that this tradition of the flood could not 
have come from a mere local freshet, for there is no tribe that 
would date the beginning of its history and the process of creation 
with a local freshet. We maintain that the resemblance between 
the flood myth of the Iroquois and the Algonkins, and the 
deluge myth of the eastern nations, is too great for any one to 
ascribe it to a local freshet. Moreover, the cosmogony of the 
two continents are very similar. We shall dwell, therefore, upon 
this point, because it is important. We shall find that there are 
certain points in these cosmogonies which are very prominent. 
These are as follows: 

(i.) This divinity existed before the flood and was a great man- 
itou and creator.f This is not saying that there was only one 
being who was a creator and ruler, for there were, according to 
the American mythology, as many creators as there were tribes, 
each tribe claiming that the great m.anitou was their special 

miles long, which has the appearance of a man lying on his back, is his image. The pieces 
ot native copper found along the shores of Lake Superior, he took from his treasure house 
inside the earth, where he sometimes lived. He studied how the spider weaves her web to 
catch flies, and invented the nets for catching tish. (See American Hero Myths.) 

*Lewis Cass and Schoolcraft say that offerings of tobacco were made to the turtle. 

tRev. A. L. Riggs. C. L. Pond, M. Eells and others maintain thai the Indians were 
polytheists, that the Great Spirit was used as an accommodation borrowed from the white 



ancestor and ruler. This was probably the meaning of the 
Great Spirit when used among them. The term was used out 
of accommodation to the white man. The Great Spirit had no 
semblance, and was a very indefinite being to the savage. The 
term might apply to the great manitou o.r creator, though to the 
particular tribe he might be the great rabbit or hare or any other 
animal which existed before the creation. It might be the per- 
sonification of the sun, and yet was not known or worshiped as 

(2.) The manner in which he came into existence is to be noticed. 
Generally it was by an untimely birth, through the side or arm- 
pit of his mother, which caused her death. In most of the 
legends there were two brothers, one good and the other evil,* 
who struggled for the mastery, like Esau and Jacob, before they 
were born. In this respect the myth reminds us of the Scandin- 
avian myth and. also one contained in the ancient Vedas of the 
Hindoos. This conception of a hero, born of a virgin, who 
contended with his brother who had caused the death of his 
mother, and who afterward became the creator and transformer as 
well as benefactor, is very common throughout the globe. f It 
is accounted for by many as the result of personification, the 
light being the great benefactor, but the darkness being the great 
enemy of mankind. This conception is at the basis of the myth- 
ology of the east and vvas common in Egypt, Assyria and India. 
According to most writers, it was transferred to Scandinavia, and 
there formed the basis of the strange mythology which has been 
preserved in the ancient sagas. It may also have traveled further 
west and become the basis of the myths concerning the culture 
heroes and the great divinities here. 

If the eternal struggle of Ormuzd and Ahrimam, light and 
darkness is so prominent in the Zend-Avesta of the Persians, 
and was also embodied in the story of Thor and Midgard in 
Scandinavia, and of St, George and the Dragon in Great Britain, 
we see no reason why it may not have been transferred to 
Iceland and been embodied here in the story of Glooscap and 
Lox, or Manibozho and his brother. Certainly when one comes 
to the part of the story which refers to the struggling ot the two 
brothers in the mother's womb, and the issue of one of the 
brothers from the mother's arm-pit, thus causing the mother's 

*Dr. D. G. Brinton maintains that this distinction between good and evil spirits was 
only symbolic of light and darkness and had no reference to moral qualities. There is a 
plausibility in this view, yet the distinction between a benefactor and a mischief-maker is 
plainly illustrated by the character of the two brothers. Glooscap, who is called a cheat 
and a liar, is, nevertheless, a benefactor, while Loks, who is fiis enemv, resembles the 
Scandinavian Loki, a mischief-maker. The animals are somewhat significant. Glooscap 
is the rabbit, or hare, and Loks is the wolverine, a stealthy animal. 

fTlic cliief Cusic (182^) called it the good mind and the bad mind, but Father Brebeuf, 
missionary in i6.'?6, described it as the struggle of loskelia (the white one) with his brother 
Tawiskara (tlie dark one). Thus two centuries have given the tale a different or a modern 
bearing, through the Christian intiueace. E. G. Squier says that Manibozho is always 
placed in antagonism to a great serpent, a spirit ot evil, but Father Lejeune, in 1634, makes 
no mention of a serpent. It is not certain that the serpent was the type of evil among the 
natives, but was rattier the embodiment of the nature powers, the lightning. 


-death, it seems as if it must have been borrowed, and could not 
have been an original invention among the American savages. 
This struggle between the two brothers is very v/ide-spread in 
America. The Miztecs hold that two brothers dwelt in the garden. 
One was the wind of nine spirits and the other the wind of nine 
caverns. The first was an eagle, which flew over the waters ot 
the enchanted garden. The second was a serpent with wings, 
which flew with such velocity that he pierced rocks and walls. 
Among the Dacotahs. the combat is waged between Unk-ta-he, 
the god of waters, and Wauhkeon, the thunder bird. 

Schoolcraft has recorded a myth in which four sons were 
born at a birth, which caused the death of the mother. The 
first was the friend of the human race, Manibozho. The second 
presides over the land of souls, Chipiopos. The third is the 
rabbit, Wabosso, who rules the north. The fourth was the flint 
man which supplies fire to men from the stones which are scat- 
tered over the earth, Chakekenapok. Manibozho killed the flint 
god, tore out his bowels and changed them to trailing vines. 
Then he himself gave them lances, arrows and implements and 
taught them how to make axes, snares and traps. He placed 
four good spirits at the four cardinal points, whither the calumet 
is turned, in smoking at the sacred feasts. The spirit of the 
north gives snow and ice, so that men may pursue game. The 
spirit of the south gives melons, maize and tobacco. The spirit 
of the west gives rain, and the spirit of the east gives light. 
The voice of the spirits is thunder. 

(3.) The third fact, which is common in all the myths, is that 
there was a great flood which came and destroyed the whole 
race that covered the earth. The cause of this flood is not 
always the same. By some it is said to have originated in the 
sins of the people, and others, in the jealousies of the gods. 

Among the Ottawas the god of the deep was jealous of the wolf. 
He killed the wolf and made a great feast, to which sea serpents 
and water tigers were invited. During this feast Manibozho, the 
great divinity, changed himself to a black stump. The sea 
serpent coiled himself around the stump. Manibozho then fled, 
pursued by the monsters. The waters rose mountain high, but 
Manibozho commanded a great canoe to be formed, in which he 
saved himself. 

Among the Menominees, there were three brothers, who de- 
stroyed a great fish, but the evil Manitou from under the earth 
was angry at this and seized one of the brothers, Manibozho, as he 
tried to cross the lake. The waters poured out of the earth and 
pursued him, but the badger hid him in his burrow, and by throw- 
ing back the earth kept out the waters. Manibozho then took refuge 
on the highest mountain and climbed to the top of a pine tree. The 
waters continued to rise, but Manibozho caused the tree four times 
to grow, so as to lift him above the waters. He then saw the 



animals struggling in the water. He commanded first the otter, 
then the beaver, the mink, and the muskrat to dive for the mud. 

Among the Crees, the Manibozho makes a monster fish, which 
strikes the water with his tail and causes the inundation until 
the tops of the highest mountains are covered and no land is 
seen. Then Manibozho makes a raft and sends down the diver 
duck, and then the muskrat. Imitating the mode in which the 
muskrats build their houses, he formed a new earth, placing the 
disk of earth on the water, which grew to great size. 

Among the Missasagas, the story is that Manibozho hunted 
the great beaver around Lake Superior, and broke open the 
great beaver dam at the foot of the lake, exactly as Glooscap 
broke open the beaver dam on the coast of Maine.* 

I~ig. S.— Serpent Pipe. 

Among the Canadian Indians, the story is that two brothers 
were hunters. They chased the deer out upon the ice, the sea 
lions broke the ice, and the brother was slain. His body was 
hung across the doorway of the sea lions' house. Manibozho 
took down the body, but the sea lions chased him to the edge of 
the lake. They made the waters to rise, and accompanied by all 
the birds and beasts, they chased him far inland. He climbed a 
very high mountain, closely followed by the waters. He then 
built a raft, took on it his brother and all the animals and floated 
away. Another story is. that Manibozho was walking along the 
sides of an enchanted lake. The waters began to boil, and from 
them all the beasts came forth, among them the white lion and 
the yellow Hon. Manibozho changes himself to a stump. The 
bear hugs it and tears it with tooth and claw. The great serpent 
coils himself around it and tries to crush the stump. 

Thus the story of the deluge varies with the different tribes, 
for each tribe makes the river or lake on which they dwelt the 
scene where the tragedy was enacted. Generally the myth 
bearers are certain inscribed rocks or caves, in which the serpent 

*Faber. in his History of Idolatry, relates a story of the drawing out of a divinity from 
the lakes and ponds of Great Britain. 



is a conspicuous figure; sometimes an island, or a headland, or 
a waterfall will be pointed out as the place where the scene oc- 

What is most remarkable about this myth is that it seems to 
have prevailed among the Mound-builders. At least a pipe was 
found, by Squier and Davis, in a mound in Ohio, with a snake 
wrapped around the bowl, in a manner to suggest the story of 
the serpent and the stump. See Fig. 3. There is also a pipe in 
the Canadian Institute at Toronto that embodies this same myth. 
At first sight it may seem as if it was a representative of the tree 
and the serpent, but in reality it embodies the myth of the pine 
tree, or pine stump, with its branches taken off. See Figs. 4 
and 5. The pipe was found in a mound in Kentucky, opposite 
the great fort at Lawrenceburg, Ind. It shows the branches of 
a tree in relief on the side of the face ; also the coils of the ser- 

Fif/x. Unrtd 5.—Sei~pe:it Tree (tnd Face. 

pent twisted tight about the throat. The face is very ghou' sh 
and might well be taken as the portrait of Manibozho. The 
eyes are expressive, as they are deep set, and yet the eye balls 
project and depict agony, as if the person was being strangled.* 
(4.) The re-creating of the earth was the chief work of the 
divinity. The manner in which this was done varies according 
to the different tribes. The Canadian Indians say that the great 
hare or the dawn god, which was virtually the same as Mani- 
bozho, floated on a raft of wood, on which were animals of all 
kinds. S-eing only swans and waterfowl, he pursuaded the 
beaver, the otter and the muskrat to dive. He took up the grain 
of sand and made a mountain of it. Manibozho started to go 

*Other pipes found in the mounis illustrate myths still prevalent. \ pipe found in 
Ohio represents ananimil like a, with aw jnun's face, but with a serpent w)und around 
the neck, the head and t lil on the breast of the w,)nnn. A pipe in the Illinois collection at 
Chicago represents a trog carrying a chunky stone or mace in its claw. .\ tassel falls from 
the stone across the claw of the trog. Another pipe represents a man on his knees holdmg 
a rabbit in his hands, the rabbit in an attitude as if ready to jump. There are also human 
-effigies remind us of the myths of the culture heroes. 


around the mountain, but it increased in size and became the great 
earth. When the Indians hear noises in the mountains they 
know that the great hare is continuing his work. The story is 
that he is still traveling about the mountain and the earth is still 
growing. Schoolcraft says there is scarcely a prominent lake, 
mountain, precipice or stream in the northern part of America 
which is not hallowed in Indian story by the fabled deeds of this 
great divinity* 

The Pottowottamies say there were two great spirits, Kitche- 
maneto and Matchemaneto. The former was the creator of the 
world. He piled up the mountains and filled the valleys 
with streams. The first creature made was a wolf. He threw it 
into a lake and it was drowned. A storm arose and washed the 
bones of the animal ashore. They were turned into a woman, 
who bore the likeness of the Pottowottamies. f He made five 
other beings for her companions, smoking weed (Usame). the 
pumpkin (Wapaho), the melon (Eshkosimin), the bean (Kokees), 
the yellow maize (Montamin).| 

As to the process of world creation, we have a remarkable 
analogy between the American myth and the story given by 
Diodorus Siculus as the common tradition among the Egyptians. 
After the flood there was chaos, and the mud (maut) was the 
prevailing element. I'he mud was changed to human beings. 
Some of them came out fully formed and were completely human; 
others were partly animal and partly human; others still stuck in 
the mud, the upper part perfect, but the lower part unfinished. § 

(5.) The chief point which we make in connection wnth the 
myths of the creation is that the imagery is drawn entirely from 
the local scenery, objects which were familiar to the aborigines. 
This varies according to the tribe which repeats the myth, that 
of the Ojibwas having been taken from the region ot the great 
lakes and the falls of St. Marie, but that of the Abenakis con- 
taining pictures of the rocks and forests of the coast of Maine; 
while with the Dakotas the imagery is taken from the pipe-stone 
quarry, and that of the Haidas from the scenes of the northwest 
coast, and that of the Cliff-dwellers from the region of the great 

The whale figures conspicuously in the Abenaki myths and 
those of the northwest coast, but never appears in the myths of 
the interior. There is one Algonkin myth, however, which 
seems to refer to the whale. The story is that a great fish — the 
king of fishes — swallowed Manibozho and his canoe. When he 

*Sce Hiawatha Legends, p. 49. 

tSee I-anman's "Records of a Tourist." 

tThe Caddoes have also a story of a fiood. They lived on an eminence on the Red River 
of ttie ?nuth. Alter all tne world hud been destroyed by the flood, the Great Spirit placed 
one family of Caddoes on the eminence, and from tliem spruncf all the Indians. 

§There is a tradition among the Pawnees that a race of giants was first created, but they 
became mired in the soft mud before the waters of the Hood were fully drawn off, and the 
Dones of the mastodon occasionally found are the remains of this race. 


found that he was in the fish's belly, he sought to escape. He 
looked in his canoe and saw his war-club, with which he struck 
the heart of the fish. He then felt a sudden motion, as if the 
fish was moving with velocity. The fish said, "I am sick at the 
stomach." Manibozho then drew his canoe and placed it across 
the fi::,h's throat, to keep from being vomited into the deep. He 
then renewed his attack upon the fish's heart, and succeeded by 
repeated blows in killing it. He then heard birds scratching on 
the body as it floated on the shore. All at once rays of light 
broke in. The birds, which were sea-gulls, enlarged the orifice 
and in a short time liberated him. The spot where the fish 
happened to be driven ashore was near his lodge. This story 
is given by Schoolcraft, but he does not tell what tribe it came 
from. The event is evidently located on the sea rather than on 
the lakes. It resembles the one among the Haidas already re- 
ferred to, and reminds us of the story of Jonah in the whale's 
belly. There is another myth of Manibozho acting as a fisher- 
man. His hook is caught by the great serpent. It reminds us 
of the Scandinavian story of Thor and the Midgard serpent.* 
IV. We next come to the "Culture Heroes" of the Iroquois. 
This remarkable people had many divinities, but the chief of them 
was called loskeha, though he resembled Manibozho, the Algon- 
kin divinity enough to be taken as the same. Hiawatha, the 
founder of the Iroquois confederacy, has also been deified and 
worshiped as a culture hero. There is no doubt that the 
divinity loskeha was a personification of a nature power, as the 
story of his birth and life and many adventures would indicate. 
His brother was the troublesome Tawiskara, whose obstinacy 
caused the mother's death. His mission was to water the earth. 
He called forth the springs and brooks, the lakes and the broad 
rivers, but his brother created an immense fog, which swallowed 
all the water and left the earth as dry as it was before. He 
pierced this fog and let the water out, and so fertilized the land. 
He opened a cave in the earth and allowed to come forth all the 
varieties of animals with which the woods and prairies are 
peopled. t He contended with Tawiskara, his brother, and dealt 
him a blow in the side. The blood flowed from the wound in 
streams. The unlucky combatant fled toward the west, and as 
he ran drops of blood fell on the earth and turned to flint stones. 
The home of loskeha is in the far east. There was his cabin, 
and there he dwelt with his grandmother, the wise Attensic. 
This Attensic was a supernatural being who dwelt above the 
earth when it was covered with water, and when the aquatic 
animals and monsters of the deep were all the living creatures. 
She threw herself through a rift in the sky and fell toward the 

*Sec Mallet's Northern Antiquities, p. 44;. 

fThis story of letting the animals out Irom a cave reminds one of the Haida story or 
the stars stolen from the box. the Cherokee story of the boys who opened the box and let 
out the tfies. and of the Greek story of Prometheus, who let the fates out of the box. 


earth. Here a turtle, which dwelt in the primeval waters, offered 
her his broad back as a resting place. Upon this mossbacked 
turtle she sat, while a frog, or beaver, or some other animal, 
brought her mud, from which she, with magic power, formed 
dry land. It was the daughter of this Attensic who gave birth 
to the two sons. The birth cost the mother her life. Her body 
was buried, and from it sprang the various vegetable productions 
which the new earth required to fit it for the habitation of man. 
From her head grew the pumpkin vine, from her breast the 
maize, from her limbs the bean and other useful esculents. 

There are many myths and traditions which perpetuate the 
various exploits of this culture hero. The state of New York 
abounds with localities where his spirit was supposed to have 
dwelt. The point, however, which most interests us in this con- 
nection is the extent with which the tradition of the flood was 
associated with the culture hero of this entire region.* 

Enough has been said to show that the chief divinity of the 
Algonkins and Iroquois was very similar. About the only 
difference is that the imagery of the Iroquois divinity partook of 
the scenery of the state of New York, while that of the Algon- 
kins partook of the different regions in which the several tribes 
formerly dwelt. The same may be said of one of the divinities 
of the Dakotas. This divinity, railed Ictinike, is represented as 
a trickster, resembling Glooscap. He answers to the Iowa 
Ictoinke, the son of the sun-god, and to the Santee Unktomi 
(spider). Ictcinke, the deceiver, taught the Indians their war 
customs, but he was also a creator. He created fruits and veg- 
etables out of parts of himself, as the Iroquois Attensic did out 
of herself. 

V. The chief divinities of the Dacotahs are to be identified 
by the objects of nature in their territory. Catlin gives the 
myths of the Mandans, a branch of the Dacotahs. The one in 
reference to the pipe-stone quarry is very interesting. The great 
spirit at an ancient period called the Indian nations together 
here. Standing on the precipice of the red pipe-stone rock, he 
broke from its wall a piece and made a huge pipe, which he 
smoked to the north, south, east and west. He told them that 
this red stone was their flesh; that they must use it for their 
pipes of peace; it belonged to all. At the last whiff of his pipe 
his head went into a cloud, but the surface of the rock was 
melted and glazed. Near this spot, on a high rock, was the 
thunderer's nest. Here a bird sits upon her eggs during fair 
weather. At the approach of a storm the skies are rent with 
bolts of thunder, which is occasioned by the hatching of her 
brood. Her mate is a serpent, whose fiery tongue destroys the 

*The great Algronkin deluge storv appears to have its analogies in the legends of the 
Athabascans, the Sioux, the Iroquois, tlie Cherokees. besides various tribes of British Co- 
lumbia and Canada, the Pueblos, the Navajos and tlie southern tribes. 


young as soon as they are hatched, and the fiery bolt darts 
through the sky. Not far away, in the solid rock, are the foot- 
steps of the thunder bird, the track where he formerly stood 
when the blood of the buffalos which he was devouring ran into 
the rocks and turned them red. A few yards away runs a beau- 
tiful little stream, which leaps from the top of the precipice to 
the basin below; and on the plain, a little distance beyond, the 
five huge granite boulders, where was a shrine tor the guardian 
spirits of the place. Here offerings of tobacco were made, and 
on the surface of the rock were various marks and sculptured 
figures, which were totems of the tribes which resorted there. 

The K'nisteneaux version is, that at the time of a great freshet 
which destroyed all the nations of the earth, the tribes of the 
red men assembled at the great rock, called the Pyramid Rock, 
to get out of the way of the waters. The water continued to 
rise until it covered them all, and their flesh was converted into 
red pipe stone. While they were all drownincr in a mass, a 
young woman, K-wap-taw-w (a virgin), caught hold of the foot 
of a very large bird that was flying over, and was carried to the 
top of a high cliff not far off that was above the water. Here 
she gave birth to twins, but their father was the war-eagle. Her 
children have since peopled the whole earth. "The pipe-stone 
is the flesh of their ancestors, and is smoked by them as the 
symbol of peace, and the eagle's quill decorates the head of the 

A tradition of the Sioux is as follows: "Before the creation 
of man, the great spirit (whose tracks are yet to be seen on the 
stones, at the Red Pipe stone quarry, in form of the tracks of a 
large bird) used to slay the buffaloes and eat them on the ledge, 
and their blood running on the rocks turned them red. One day 
when a large snake had crawled into the nest of the bird to eat 
his eggs, one of the eggs hatched out in a clap of thunder, and 
the great spirit catching hold of a piece of the pipe-stone to 
throw at the snake, moulded it into a man. This man's feet 
grew fast in the ground, where he stood for many years, like a 
great tree, and therefore he grew very old. He was older than 
a hundred men at the present day. At last another tree grew 
up by the side of him, when a large snake ate them both off at 
the roots, and they wandered away. From these have sprung 
all the people that now inhabit the earth." 

This tradition of the tree and the serpent gnawing at the root 
of a tree, reminds us of the Scandinavian myth. According to 
this mvth the ash tree was the tree of existence. This grew out 
of Niffleheim. Its roots were in Nidhogg, and the fountain 
Urdur-fount was near its roots. The great eagle oerched on its 
branches, but the serpent gnaws at the roots in Nidhogg. The 
giant Hraesvelgur sits on heaven's edge, in the guise of an eagle, 
and the winds rush down to the earth through his outspreading 


pinions. The squirrel, named Ratatosk, runs up and down the- 
tree and seeks to produce strife between the eagle and Nidhogg. 
There are so many snakes in Nidhogg that no tongue can 
recount them. These myths, contained in the Sagas, were put 
together in Iceland about lOOO A. D., but some of them may 
have been easily transferred to the red Indians of America. 

Among the Dacotahs the ash tree was very sacred, the serpent 
was a great divinity, and the bird resembling the eagle was the 
chief divinity. These were the symbols of the nature powers 
and the conception may have arisen as a result of personifica- 
tion, but the resemblance between the myths of the Dacotahs 
and the Norsemen is very striking. There is a myth among the 
Dacotahs which reminds us more thoroughly of the Scandinavian 
myth. A chart accompanies the myth. On this chart is a tree, 
which represents the tree of life. By this tree flows a river, and 
beneath the river is a red star, the morning star. Near this are 
six stars, called the elm rod. Beneath these are the moon, 
seven stars, and the sun. Under the "seven stars," the peace 
pipe and war hatchet. Beneath these the four heavens, or upper 
worlds, through which the ancestors of the people passed before 
they came to earth. They are represented by four lines, sup- 
posed to be pillars. These four heavens are supported by an 
oak tree. Beside the oak tree are earth lodges and villages. 
There was a chant or song connected with this chart. It was 
used by a secret society. The chart was tattooed on the throat 
and chest of the old man belonging to the order. The picture 
of the chart and the picture of the ash tree of existence are quite 

The tendency to leave signs of their mythology upon the 
rocks and cliffs, and in the caves, was very strong among the 
Dacotahs. There is a belief in the Omaha tribe that before the 
spirit finally departs from men, at death, they float toward a clifT 
overhanging the Missouri, not far from the present Santee 
Agency, and cut upon the rocks a picture showing the manner 
of their death. It is said that these pictures are easily recog- 
nized by the relatives and friends of the deceased. The place is- 
called, "Where the spirits make pictures of themselves. "f 

The thunder god was a being of terrific proportions. It bears 
the shape of a bird. There are four varieties of this bird, one is 
black, with a long beak, and four joints to its wings. (Set 
Fig. 6.) Another is yellow, without beak, but with six quills 
to its wing. The third is scarlet, and is remarkable for having 
eight joints to its wing. The fourth is blue, with two plumes of 

*Sce Fourth Annual Report Ethnological Bureau, p. 84. Also see Mallet's Antiquities, 

tThe belief is common among the Omahas and among the Ojibwas that the spirit 
hovers about tfie grave. On this account food and water are placed at the heads of the 
graves. Among the Ojibsvas there is a little house constructed over the grave. The food 
is placed upon the floor within the house, w'hile the image which shows a totem of the 
deceased is carved upon the gable of the house.— Jo it rji a I oj Folk Lore, March, iSSq, page 11, 



down for wings. When this bird flies, it is hid by thick clouds. 
The lightning is the flash of its eyes and the thunder the echo 
of its voice. The house of this e[od is on a mound, which stands 
on the summit of a hill, and opens to the four points of the 
compass. Each doorway is watched by a sentinel, a butterfly 
at the east, a bear at the west, reindeer at the north, and a beaver 
at the south. He is represented in the human form. His eye- 
brows are lines representing the sky, from which two chains of 
lightning zig-zag downward. 

Here we have the symbolism of the sky worship which pre- 
vailed among the Zunis, but localized among the Dacotahs. 
Another divinity of the Dacotahs is called the "moving god." 
He holds the four winds. He invented the spear and the toma- 
hawk and gave them to the Indians. His home is in the 

Fig. 6. — Thunder Bird. 

Fifj, T.—Heyoka as a Hunter. 

boulders, and the boulders are always worshiped as symbols of 
the divinit}\ The stone god Toohkan is another divinity. He 
is the oldest god. His symbol is the Lingam. His home is the 
round or oval stone, about the size of a man's head. This is 
often painted red and covered with swan's down. 

There is a round stone at Red Wing which was formerly vis- 
ited by the Dacotahs and painted red as a reminder of the 
divinity. This stone was thrown into the water by the whites, 
but was replaced by the Indians. Another stone, near St. Paul,, 
was painted in a similar way. This has been described by the 
Rev. H. C. llovey. Rock inscriptions in a cave near St. Paul 
have been described by Mr. T. H. Lewis. One of these has the 
shape of an immense bird with drooping wings. See Fig. 6. 
This was evidently designed to represent this divinity. The 
feathers in the wings of this bird are drooping, and possibly may 
symbolize the falling of rain. There is serpent form attached to 
the head. This may symbolize the lightning. It was evidently 
designed to represent the thunder bird. A similar figure may 
be seen in a cave in Allamakee County, Iowa. In the same cave 


are human faces, with horns rising out of the faces. In the 
same region are pictures of snakes, animals, canoes and cres- 
cents. In Reno cave, in Houston County, Minnesota, there are 
carvings to represent birds and men. One figure represents a 
man with large hands, to represent clouds, and a crooked head, 
to represent lightning, and a circle enclosed in a triangle, to 
represent the sun. See Fig. 8. In Lamoille cave, in Minnesota, 
there is a man with upraised arms. The upper parts of the arms 
are in the shape of plants. See Fig. 9. This was a human tree 

Oonktaghe is the god of the waters. He wears the horns of 
an ox as symbols of power; but has the human form. See 
Figs. 10 and ii.J This divinity is niale and female. The dwelling 
place of the male is the water and the female the earth. The 
Dacotahs offer sacrifices both to the water and to the earth. It 

Fig. S. — Liightiiing God. Fig. a.— Human T)-ee. 

was this god which Carter speaks of as a spirit which dwells 
under the falls of St. Anthony, in a cave of awful dimensions. 
The god Oonktaghe taught the Dacotahs what colors to use, but 
Heyoka told them how many streaks to paint upon their bodies. 
The use of paint with the Dacotahs was always symbolic. Scarlet 
or red was always for sacrifice; blue was the symbol of the sky. 
There was no temple for worship among them. Rites of initia- 
tion and of purification were common, as among other tribes, 
but the details were peculiar to themselves. The iniation of 
warriors was similar to that of the Mandans, and the same 
cruelties were practiced. The medicine men were sorcerers and 
acted as jugglers and exorcists. There was a religious society 
among them that was full of symbolism. The supernatural was 
always present with them. Everything mysterious was called 
Wakan, which is identical with the Great Spirit of modern times. 
The animals were mingled with the human beings. 

VI. The Cherokees also had their culture hero. This singular 
people was formerly located in the mountains of north Georgia, 


eastern Tennessee and North Carolina, and might be called 
the mountain people. They were once located on the Ohio 
river and were probably a branch of the Iroquois, but they were 
driven south by the Algonkins and became mingled with the 
Muscogees. Their divinities are not so well known as those ot 
other tribes, but there is a resemblance between their myths and 
those of the northern Indians, and yet there was a mingling of 
the southern system of sun worship with their mythology. We 
find ourselves on the borders of another system, a system of sky 
worship, which was allied to that of the cliff dwellers, and yet 
has the characteristics of the Iroquois and the Algonkin myth- 
ologies. The best information is that furnished by the collection 
of manuscripts gathered by Mr. James Moonev, written in the 
Cherokee alphabet. Mr. Mooney says that the exposition ot 
aboriginal religion could be obtained from no other tribe so well, 

J<l(/s. 10 and ll.—Oonklaghe. 

for the simple reason that no other tribe has an alphabet of its 
own. Like the Celtic Druids, the shamans or priests found it 
necessary to cultivate a long memory, but among the Cherokees 
the alphabet enabled them to commit the record to writing. 
The religion of the Cherokees is animal worship, and the begin- 
nings in which elements and the great powers of nature were 

Their pantheon includes gods of the heaven above, the earth 
beneath and the waters under the earth. The animal gods 
constitute the most numerous class. Among these are the great 
horned serpent, rattlesnake, terrapin, hawk, rabbit, squirrel. 
The spider was prominent; his duty was to entangle the soul in 
the meshes of his web, or to pluck it from the body and to drag 
it away to the black cofifin and the darkening land. There are 
elemental gods, fire, water, and sun. The sun is called une' 
lamihi, "the apportioner;" the water, "long person," referring to 
the river. 

In their myths we recognize the culture hero as a creator; also 
the two brothers. The earth is a flat surface; the sky an arch of 


solid rock suspended above it. The arch rises and falls continu- 
ally day and night. The sun is a man so bright that no one can 
look at him. He comes through the eastern opening every 
morning, travels acrsss the heavens and disappears in the western 
opening and returns by night to the starting point. This story 
of the sun traveling back to its starting point by an underground 
path, is very common and wide-spread. Ellis speaks of it as 
prevailing in the South Sea Islands. 

One story is, that here lived great snakes, glittering as the sun 
and having two horns on the head. The last of which was 
killed by a Shawnee Indian. He found it high up on the 
mountain. He kindled a great fire of pine cones in a circle; as 
he jumped into the circle a stream of poison poured from the 
snake. He shot his arrow into the seventh stripe of the ser- 
pent's skin. On the spot on which the serpent had been killed, 
a lake formed, the water of which was black. 

This conception of the horned snake is very common. The 
Jesuits found a legend among the Hurons of a monstrous ser- 
pent, called Nuniout, who wore on his head a horn that pierced 
rocks, trees and hills. Dr. D. G. Brinton thinks that the tale 
was carried from the Creeks and Cherokees to the Hurons by 
the Shawnees. It may, however, have been inherited by the 
Cherokees from the Iroquois.* He also thinks that the horn 
symbolized the strength of the lightning, the horn of the serpent 
of the heavens, which pierces trees and rocks. 

Another story is connected with Looking Glass mountain. A 
man whose name was "Kanati," the lucky hunter, and his wife, 
who was called "Selu", the corn, had a son, who was accustomed 
to play by the river every day. The boy told about a wild boy 
who called himself elder brother, and who came out of the 
water. The parents managed to seize this wild boy and take 
him home, but he was always artful and led his brother into 
mischief and to be disobedient. Kanati kicked the covers off 
from four jars in the corner, when out came swarms of bed bugs, 
fleas and gnats, which crawled all over the boys and bit and 
stung them. The boys finally killed the mother and dragged 
the body around in a circle. Wherever her blood fell on the 
ground the corn sprang up. This is the reason why corn grows 
only in a few places. They contended with the wolves; they 
ran around the house until they made a trail, except on one side 
where they left a small open space. The trail changed to a high 
fence. When the wolves came the boys passed in through the 
opening; the wolves could not jump over the fence; the boys 
took their arrows and shot those inside the fence, and after- 
wards set fire to the grass and bushes outside the fence and 
burned nearly all the other wclves. 

Their next exploit was: The wild boy got a wheel and rolled 

*See Myths of the New World, p. iig. See Chapter 111, on the Serpent Symbol. 


it in various directions, so as to find their father, the Kanati. 
The wheel rolled in the direction in which it was always night, 
but came rolling back. He then rolled it to the south and the 
north and it came back; at last he rolled it toward the sun land, 
and the two brothers followed it. After several days they found 
Kaniti with a dog by his side. The dog was the wheel which 
they had sent after him to find him. This conception of the 
wheel is very rare among the uncivilized tribes, though it was 
very common among the civilized rrces of Europe and Asia. 
The Basques were accustomed to roll the wheel through the 
fields as a symbol of the sun. There are symbols on the rocks 
of Arizona which resemble wheels. Others which resemble 
sphinxes, and there are shell gorgets in the Cherokee territory 
which contain circles and crescents and crosses with curved arms, 
symbolizing the revolution of the season. Mr. Staniland Wake 
has an article on the subject. 

Among the Cherokees there is a story of a serpent. The 
conjurer, by his magic spells, coils the great serpent around the 
house of a sick man to keep off the witches, but he is always 
careful to leave a small open space between the head and tail of 
the snake, so that the members of the family can go down to the 
spring to get water. This myth seems to have been wide- 
spread, for there is an effigy of a snake in Wisconsin which 
marks the site of a lodge circle. This effigy is near a spring of 
water called Mineral Springs. The opening between the head 
and tail of the snake is toward the spring. There are not many 
of the Cherokee myths which have been identified with any 
particular objects of nature, though the old men who retain the 
myths always look back to the region from which they came, 
their memory associating the myth with the mountains and 
rivers. A fragment of the tribe still remains east of the Allegheny 
mountains. These identify the myths with particular spots. 


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One of the most interesting subjects connected with American 
archeeology is the one which relates to "Culture Heroes and 
Deified Kings." Much has been said about the " Heroes," and 
many theories have been adopted to account for their origin and 
history, but as to the kings little has been written, for there 
seems to be but little known. That there were different classes 
of divinities v/hich were worshiped by the native races will be 
acknowledged. Some of them were the personifications of 
nature powers; others semi-historic human divinities; still 
others actual historic characters or potentates. It remains, 
however, for the archaeologists to identify these, and make known 
the localities where they were worshiped. This is the task which 
we have set before us in this paper. We shall first take the tes- 
timony of the historians and see what they say in reference to 
the "Culture Heroes." We shall next take the testimony of the 
monuments, and from them endeavor to trace the relation of the 
"Culture Heroes" to the "nature powers." Lastly, we shall 
speak of the various statues and images, which have perpetuated 
the record of the "Deified Kings." In all of these departments 
we shall seek aid from the study of the myths and symbols. 
Our object will be to distinguish between the three classes of 
symbols, those which represent the " nature powers," those 
which relate to the "Culture Heroes," and those which show that 
royalty was represented. There may be a difficulty about sepa- 
rating the first two classes, for the nature powers were often per- 
sonified, and the element of personality was hidden behind the 
symbols ; but this is not the case with the third class, for the 
portraits and decorations of the kings are apparent. We shall 
give attention especially to the symbols of the Mayas, for it is 
among them that the statues of deified kings are to be found; 
but we shall also take the symbols of the other civilized race 
so-called, such as the Nahuas, by way of comparison. Our 
chief inquriy will be whether the "Culture Heroes" of these 
races can be identified by their monuments. 
I. First let us take the testimony of history. 
I. The two nations, the Nahuas and Mayas, were for a long 
time associated together, and borrowed from one another customs 
and habits, even symbols and mythologies, though the Mayas 
were much the older, and their culture was really more advanced. 


Their history may be divided into several epochs or periods, the 
first period being that of the Maya supremacy, which began 
before the Christian era. Bancroft says, "It is not likely that 
the Maya empire in its integrity continued later than the fourth 
century, though the epoch of its highest power preceded, rather 
than followed, the Christian era." The second was the Toltec 
period, which commenced about 647 A. D.; the third, the Chicemec, 
commenced with the twelfth century, and the fourth was the 
Aztec period, commencing 1363 A. D. It was during the Toltec 
period that that mysterious person, called Quetzatlcoatl, appeared 
and introduced the various arts of civilization, and an elaborate 
system of religion. He was the great "Culture Hero" of the Na- 
huas, and the pontiff king of Tulan. He effected many religious 
innovations, and was distinguished for his opposition to human 
sacrifice. Temples to his honor were erected at Cholula and in 
all parts of Anahuac. His reign was a short one. He retired 
before the machinations of his enemy, Tezcatlipoca. Who he 
was and where he came from is altogether unknown, yet such 
was his character that he impressed himself, not only upon the 
Toltecs and the Nahuas, but also upon the entire Maya race, 
for there are culture heroes mentioned in the history of all 
the tribes of Mexico and Central America, though under the 
different names of Votan, Cuculkan, Gucumatz, and Quetzatl- 
coatl, according to nationality. Some writers have explained 
this on the theory that they were only personifications of the great 
sun divinity, and have compared them to the various culture 
heroes which have appeared in the early history of all nations. 
Quetzatlcoatl is represented by the Aztec historians as a white 
man, wearing a beard and enveloped in a garment covered with 
crosses, and resembling an European monk or priest. Some 
have accounted for him by the supposition that two personages 
have been confounded; one the early "culture hero," an entirely 
mythical character, another the pontiff king of Tulan, who 
assumed dominion about 873 A. D. His reign in Cholula lasted 
about ten years. Others have imagined that some visitor from 
a foreign shore had appeared and introduced great reformations, 
and this gave rise to the traditions. 

Quetzatlcoatl was the great divinity of the Toltecs and repre- 
sented the more gentle and humane religious tendencies which 
prevailed among them, and which were supplanted by the cruel 
and warlike religion of the Aztecs. He was the feathered serpent 
or serpent bird. We recognize in his name, and in the legends 
concerning him, the god of the wind or air, which was known in 
Central America under the varying names of Cuculkan (bird 
serpent), Hurakan (hurricane), Gucumatz (feathered serpent), 
Votan (serpent). He was always a serpent, either feathered or 
flying.* He reminds us ot the beneficent gods of the ancient 

♦Reveille's "Native Religions of Mexico." i . 57. 





'■'-:^-#.s ?^;'L*r.. 



world, Dios or Jupiter Pluvius, of the Greeks; Ormuzd,* of the 
Persians; Varuna, of the Hindoos; Tien, of China, who were 
embodiments of good. 

In the Maya traditions the person whose name appears first 
is Zamna, a son of the chief deity, who taught the people the 
hieroglyphic alphabet and gave a name to each locality of Yucu- 
tan. He played the same role here that Votan did in Chiapas. 
The same events are recorded in the Yucatec, Tzendal, Quiche 
and the Toltec traditions. According to a Maya tradition, this 
culture hero came to America and apportioned the land to the 
people. He came by sea from the east. He built a great city, 
the city ot the serpents, and became a law-giver and civilizer, the 
introducer of the Maya culture, and after his appearance was 
worshiped as a god. 

Votan was also a divinity among the Mayas. He corresponded 
m his history to Quetzatlcoatl of the Mexicans. Bancroft makes 
him the first historian of his people. "He wrote a book on the 
origin of the race, though at times he seems to be a mythic 
creation, a sort of mediator between man and God, and at times 
a sort of legislator. He portioned out the land. He founded 
Palenque, the future metropolis of a mighty kingdom. He was 
supposed to be the founder of civilization. He came by sea 
from the east. He made four mysterious visits. Still he was not 
the first to appear, for American civilization was already in ex- 
istence. After his death he was deified, and may be regarded as 
one of the deified kings. It was in the days of this ancient 
Maya glory, when Votan and his successors reigned, that the 
kings played roles, to a great extent mythical, combining the 
powers of legislators, teachers, high priests and monarchs. Then 
came a famous personage, bearing a striking resemblance in his 
traditionary career to the Quetzatlcoatl of the Nahuas, called 
Cuculkan, whom, some think, was an historical personage, and 
others imagine to be only a personification of the sun or some 
of the nature powers. f" 

There were two distinct cycles of myths in Yucatan. The 
earlier related to Itzamna, the later referred to Cuculkan. It was 
a tradition among the natives that the most ancient emigration 
was from che east across the ocean, the later was from the west. 
The former was called the great arrival, the other the less arrival. 
Itzamna was the guide, instructor and civilizer. He was the first 
priest, and taught them the proper rites to please their gods. He 
invented the characters or letters with which the Mayas wrote 
their numerous books. He devised their calendar. As city- 
builder and king, his history is associated with the noble edifices 
of Itzamal.t There was a temple at Itzamal consecrated to him 
as the eye of the day. the bird of fire, Kin-ich-kak-mo — Kin, the 

*See Lockyer's Dawn of Astronomy, page 6. 

tBancroft, Vol. 111. p. b\y. 

tCharnay speaks of finding a gigantic face at the foot of the pyramid at Itzamal. 


sun; ic/i, the eye; ^'al\ fire; vto, sacred bird, the brilliant 
plumaged guacamaya, the red macay. This was the word 
adopted as the name of the ruler of Chichen-Itza. Some have 
derived the name Itzamna from sa/n, early; j'a^n, first; Zanialyam, 
the dawn, the aurora, the dew, the son of the morning. The 
symbol which represented this divinity and culture hero was 
the sun's disk, which shot forth its scorching rays.* There was 
a temple sacred to him, to which the people resorted, and at high 
noon spread a sacrifice upon the altar. The moment the sun 
reached the zenith, a bird of brilliant plumage, which was noth- 
ing less than a fiery flame, shot from the sun, descended and 
consumed the offering in the sight of all. His shrine was ex- 
tremely popular, and to it pilgrimages were made from such 
remote regions as Tabasco, Guatemala and Chiapas. Four paved 
roads were constructed to this shrine, from the north, south, east 
and west, straight to the quarters ot the four winds. f Associated 
with Itzamna were the four Bacabs, or gods of the winds, each 
identified with a particular color and the cardinal points ; the first, 
that of the south, yellow; the east, red; the north, white; and 
the west, black. The winds and rains from these directions were 
under the charge of these gods. 

Bishop Landa says they represented four brothers, who sup- 
ported the four corners of the heavens, who blew the winds from 
the four cardinal points, and presided over the four dominical 
signs of the calendar. Each year in the calendar was supposed 
to be under the influence of one of these brothers. They were 
the sons of Ich-chal, the goddess of the rain-bow, who was the 
wife of the light god and mother of the rain gods, since the 
rainbow is never seen but during a shower, and while the sun is 
shining. These four divinities were called "chacs," giants. They 
were gods of fertility; they watered the crops; they presided 
over streams and wells; they were divinities whose might was 
manifested in the thunder. They were represented as enormous 
giants, standing like pillars at the four cornet s of the earth, and 
supporting the heavens. They were worshiped under the symbol 
of the cross, the four arms of which represented the four car- 
dinal points. This was regarded as a tree, and in the Maya 
tongue was called the "tree of life." The celebrated cross at 
Palenque| is one of its representations. There was another such 
cross in a temple on the island of Cozumel. This was a symbol 
of the four rain gods, the Bacabs. In periods of drought, offer- 
ings were made to it of birds, and it was sprinkled with water. 
The festival to the gods of the harvest occurred in the early 
spring. In this festival Itzamna was worshiped as the leader of the 
Bacabs, and an important rite called the "extinction of the fire" 

♦The face of the sun may be seen in the shrine at Palenque, Casa No. 4: the'bird on 
the cross, Casa No. 2; the tree of life and cross. Casa No. j;; the three tablets Cjsa No. i. 
tChichen was a holy city among ancient cities, p. 353, Landa. See xiii, p. 344. 
jSee Plates of the crosses at Palenque. 


was performed.* The Bacabs were supposed to blow the winds 
from the four corners of the earth through wind instruments or 
trumpets. t It was in the second period of the Mayas that Cu- 
cuikan appeared, and was the culture hero. This period was later 
than that of Itzamna, though its date is unknown and the sym- 
bols were different. The natives affirm that there were twenty 
men, the chief of whom was Cuculkan, that they wore long 
robes and sandals on their feet, had long beards, and their heads 
were bare. Cuculkan was the tutelar divinity of Yucatan, as 
Votan was of Chiapas, and Quetzatlcoatl was of Cholula. His 
name means "feather serpent," the "mighty serpent."^ He was 
worshiped in Chichen-Itza, a city whose ruins still rank among 
the most imposing in Central America. A temple was built in 
his honcr. It was unlike others in Yucatan. It had circular 
walls, and tour doors, which were directed toward the four cardi- 
nal points, with a staircase guarded by serpents. Under the 
beneficent rule of Cuculkan the nation enjoyed its halcyon days. 
At length the time drew near for him to depart; he gathered the 
chiefs together and expounded to them his laws, then took his 
journey westward toward the setting sun. The people believe 
that he ascended to the heavens, and from his lofty house he 
watches over the interests of his adherents. Such was the tra- 
dition of the mythical hero as told by the Itzas. Previous to the 
destruction of Mayapan, temples were built to him, and he was 
worshiped throughout the land. One version of the tradition 
about Cuculkan makes him arrive from the west and return to 
the west, while that concerning Itzamna and Quetzatlcoatl was 
that they came from the east and returned to the east. With this 
exception the chief divinity and "culture hero" of the Mayas and 
Nahuas seem to have been very similar. There is another point 
in which they resemble one another, they all prophecied their 
return. These prophecies were obscure, but they distinctly re- 
fer to the arrival of white and bearded strangers from the east, 
who should control the land, and alter the prevailing religion. 
These prophecies gave rise to the general expectation, so that 
the Spaniards were surprised to find themselves welcomed as the 
divinities whose adv^ent had been foretold. 

The culture hero of the Peruvians was like those of the Mayas 
and Nahuas with one exception, he seemed to have been 
at the outset worshiped as a supreme being.§ Vira Cocha 
was the name of this "culture hero," and divinity.|| He was 
the first cause and ground of all things. He made the sun, 
•formed the moon, and gave her light; he created the beautiful 
aurora, the dawn goddess; the twilight, whose messengers were 

♦Brinton's Hero Myths. See description on page 195. 

tThe Mandans say that four tortoises vomit out the "rains; theNavajoes that four Swans 
drained the eartli: the Kiches that four animals brought the maize. 

tSee Bancroft's Antiquities, page 229, and Native Races. Vol. Ill, page 325. 
^See Brinton's Gods of the Kiches, also Native Myths. 
liMyths of the New World. 


the fleecy clouds, who, when she shakes her clustering hair, drops 
noiselessly pearls of dew on the green grassy fields. Invisible 
himself, the rays of light were his messengers, faithful soldiers, 
"shining ones," who conveyed his decrees to every part. He was 
worshiped as a creator. He was not the sun, but was the creator 
of the sun, the incarnation of the infinite creator. The legend 
is, that two brothers started from the distant east, and journeyed 
to the west, and gave names to the places as they passed. They 
reached the western ocean, and having accomplished all they had 
to do in this world, they ascended into heaven. Still there is a 
myth that Vira Cocha was human. At a remote period he ap- 
peared to the tribes as an elderly man, with white hair and flowing 
beard, supporting himself on a staft'and clothed in flowing robes. 
He met the same fate as other wise teachers. According to 
another myth, he had a host of attendants, white and bearded 
like himself. When they reached the sea, they walked out upon 
the waves and disappeared in the west. His name means "foam 
of the sea." Dr. Brinton thinks that this story is founded upon 
the personification of the sun, the god of light and of wind. The 
Peruvians expected the return of Vira Cocha, so that the Span- 
iards found themselves expected guests in the realms of the Incas 
as well as in Yucatan. There were "culture heroes" among the 
other races of South America. In the lofty plateau of the Andes, 
in New Granada, was the home of the Muyscas, who were skilled 
in smelting and beating the precious metals, and were fond of 
agriculture. They attributed their various arts to the instruc- 
tions of a wise stranger, who came from the east, and whose 
path led to the holy temple at Sogomoso. His hair was abund- 
ant, his beard fell to his waist, and he was dressed in long flowing 
robes. At night he retired into a cave in the mountain, and 
again reappeared in the morning. His name was Chimizapagua. 
Another name applied to the hero god was Bochica. He is 
represented as the supreme male divinity, whose female associate 
is the rainbow, the goddess of rains and waters, and fertility, 
fields and child-bearing. There were culture heroes also in 
Brazil and even in Paraguay, one of which was named Tamu or 
Zume, called our ancestor, whom the natives regarded as a ben- 
evolent old man, to whom they attributed their arts. He came 
from the east, the sun-rising, and went towards the east. The 
impress of his feet was left upon the rock, and a well-marked 
path was pointed out here as the path of Bochica in New Granada, 
The interpretation of these various myths given by Dr. D. G. 
Brinton is that they were all based upon the personification of 
the sun or the god of light, since the most of them came from 
the east, though he does not explain why they went back to the 

*The culture hero of the Moqul Cliff-dwellers was a personage who appeared poorly 
clad and was for a time despised, but he introduced many arts, and is now looked upon 
under the name of Montezuma, as the great divinity and l)enefactor. 

"^ .„•-«• S^f^:-^ 




east. The strange thing about these heroes is that they all 
have beards and wear long robes, which are sometimes covered 
with crosses. They were evidently prehistoric in their appearance, 
and were worshiped as divinities; and yet when we come to 
identify them in the monuments, we find few human figures 
which have either beards, or robes covered with crosses.* 

II. This leads us to the study of the monuments. Do these 
anywhere furnish testimony as to the " Culture Heroes," so that 
we can identify them, and fix upon the localities where they were 
worshiped? This is an important question, for by the answer 
we may not only decide as to the difference between the myths 
and the traditions, but verify history. In taking the testimony 
of the monuments, we shall consult those authors who have 
visited them, and made a study of them, among whom Mr. J. L. 
Stephens is regarded as chief. This gentleman, in 1840, started 
with his companion, Mr. Catherwood, from New York for Nica- 
ragua. The two were fortunate enough to strike upon the very 
localities where the chief cities of the ancient Mayas were situ- 
ated, some of which had been seen by the Spaniards, but the 
majority of them were totally unknown to the conquerors. They 
were surprised at the extent and magnificence of the ruins, but 
were able to visit many of them, and take sketches of the chief 
buildings and statues and works of art, and to write out descrip- 
tions of the same. The ruins were scattered over a wide region 
ot country, some of them in Honduras (Quirigua, Copan), 
others in Guatemala (Quiche, Quezaltenago), others in Chi- 
apas (Ocosingo, Palenque), others in Yucatan (Uxmal, Chichen- 
Itza, Merida, Kabah), all of them bearing the marks of 
ancient Maya civilization. Tlie publication of their work made 
a great sensation, and was for the science of archaeology nearly 
as im.portant an event as the discovery of America was for his- 
tory. A few explorers had, to be sure, visited the region before,! 
and still others followed; but the work of Stephens is the most 
valuable of all. Bancroft says, "The accuracy of his survey 
cannot be called in question." It was with great difficulty that 
the overhanging forest trees were cleared away, and the lines 
were run out which secured the platting of the various ruins, and 
the location of the pyramids, palaces, temples and altars, with 
relation to one another; but it was owing to these measurements 
that we learn the length, breadth and height of the various pyra- 
mids, the size of the shrines upon them; also the height and 

*Charnay discovered sculptured door-posts at Chichen-Itza on which bearded men were 
depicted. Stephens has described two of the idols or portrait statues at Copan as haviiig 
beards. Neither of these have crosses on their garments, though there are different kmds 
of crosses among the symbols. 

tWaldeck. a French artist, in 18^;: Norman, from New Orleans, in '43; Charnay. the 
French author, in ';S and again in "78^ Friederichsthal in "41: Capt. Del Rio, i79^: Dupai.x, 
i8o^ Col. Galindo". governor of the province of Peten. C. A., explored Copan in 1S3;, and 
published an account in the bulletin of the Societe de Geographic of Paris and in Ameri- 
can <ntiquari.\n, Soc Trans., Vol. II, p. 54?. 


breadth of the terraces which formed the platforms to the palaces; 
the size and location of the different rooms in the palaces, their 
courts and corridors; also the length of the walls surrounding 
the palaces; the size of the carved pillars and gigantic faces and 
sculptured altars which surrounded the pyramids; also the length 
and breadth of the tablets confined within the shrines or adora- 
torios. From these we determine the character of the different 
buildings, and decide which were devoted to purposes of royalty, 
which were used for religious objects, and even decide as to the 
use of the different apartments in each of the buildings. The 
description of Mr. Stephens reveals to us the beauty of the 
sculpture and the magnificence of the architecture, as well as 
the grandeur of the ruins. It is, however, owing to the 
skillful hand of the artist Catherwood, that we are furnished 
with drawings which bring out in detail all the ornaments which 
were wrought into the fac^ades of the palaces and of the shrines, 
and even the sculptured figures or portraits embodied in the stat- 
ues, and are able to study the symbols and hieroglyphics which 
appear on them in great numbers. The plates in the book are 
among the chief sources of authority and information on these 
subjects, and well repay examination. These gentlemen found 
the most interesting objects at Copan.* The ruins here were two 
miles in extent, and seemed to represent a palace with court-yards, 
and buildings around the courts, situated upon terraced pyramids, 
with wide steps leading to the buildings, colossal heads upon the 
sides of the pyramids, and, what is most interesting of all, nine- 
teen statues, covered with the most elaborate sculptured orna- 
ments, and containing the figures which may have been the 
portraits of the kings and queens who occupied the palace. 
There were altars covered with most elaborate symbols near 
seven of these statues, conveying the idea that sacrifices may 
have been offered to the kings. The sculpture upon some of 
the statues filled the travelers with astonishment, for it was very 
beautiful and elaborate, as can be seen from an examination of 
the plates and the cuts. Quirigua, about twenty miles distant, 
presented also a collection of statues of the same general char- 
acter as those at Copan, but somewhat larger; they were carved 
pillars, with figures on the front and back, and heiroglpyhics 
on the sides, some of them twenty-three feet above the ground, 
with a base projecting fifteen or sixteen feet. At Quiche there was 
an extensive fortress, surrounded with ravines, a palace and a 
place of sacrifice, but no statues were visible. The place of 
sacrifice was an isolated pyramid, broken and ruined, but was 
supposed to be an altar erected for the sacrifice of human victims. f 
At Palenque| were the most extensive ruins, most of the build- 

*For the ground plan of tlie palace at Copan, see chapter vii, page 171. 

tlncidents of Travel, pp. 171, yx), 319. 

IThe shrines at Palenque are shown in the chapter on Pyramids, pp. 1S2-1S3. 


ings facing the cardinal points; there were palaces with corridors 
and courts, and sculptured groups in the courts, also a shrine, 
with a sculptured tablet in the shrine. Near by, were various 
temples or shrines which contained the tablets, and were named 
after the tablets : the temple of the cross, the temple of the sun, 
the temple of the three tablets. These shrines or adoratorios 
presented on their fagades many remarkable figures in bas-relief, 
some of which evidently represented divinities, or the priests 
which presided. At Ocosingo, in Chiapas, was a terraced hill or 
elevation, and on the summit a pyramid which supported a stone 
building eleven by eighteen feet. Over the doorway, on the out- 
side, was the stucco ornament which resembled the winged 
globe of the Egyptian temples.* At Uxmal was the most inter- 
esting group of ruins. Here was the building known as the gover- 
nor's house, or Casa de la Gobernador; a pyramid rising in three 
terraces, the sides measuring five hundred and forty-five feet and 
reaching the height of forty leet. It supports a building three 
hundred and twenty-two feet long, thirty-nine feet wide and 
twenty-six feet high, with two rows of corridors, and heavy 
cornices, and above the cornice, beautiful sculpture. Here was 
the two-headed idol and the picot,f also the Casa de Palomas, 
also the Casa de la Viega or old woman's house, so named from 
a statue lying near its front ; also the Casa de Monjas, or Nunnery, 
with its four interior fagades, fronting the court, with the cornice, 
which covered over twen<"y-four thousand square feet for the four 
buildings, filled with elegant and elaborate sculpture. This 
building was remarkable for its symbolism. Over the doorways 
of the southern court were the ornaments which resembled a 
small hut or shrine, with a statue seated within the door, and 
above the shrine was the ornament resembling the human face 
and eye; lattice work and ranges of pillars on either side.^ On 
the eastern court were horizontal bars terminating in serpents' 
heads, on which hung a gigantic mask or human face with 
peculiar head-dress, ear pendants and protruding tongue. § On 
the western codrt was the serpent temple, a building whose 
facade was covered with lattice work, ornaments in the shape of 
the Greek fret and two massive serpents in relief, which formed 
the panels, their bodies interlacing and surrounding the entire 
front, the tail and head at either end of the building with a 
human face within the jaws. At Chichen-Itza were the numerous 
buildings which were called the "castle," the approach to which 
was guarded by the serpent balustrade; also the "gymnasium" 
with its stone rings in the shape of serpents; also the buildings 
in which were the figures sculptured in bas-relief, representing 

♦This winged figure resembled that on the facade at Palenque. See page 133. 
tCharnay says, "that picots were placed in the center of the plaza o? the palace at 
Chichen-Itza, and slaves were fastened to them to be punished. 

|.\ cut of this ornament may be seen in "Cliff-dwellings and Ruined Cities," page 307. 
glbid., page 325. See also Bancroft's Antiquities., page 1S3. 


the human form with plumed head-dress and bunches of bows 
and arrows; the building called the "red house," called by Char- 
nay the "prison;" and the circular building called the "caracol," 
or winding staircase, by Norman the "dome," which contained 
the stairways with balustrade, formed of two intertwined serpents. 
The castle was interesting, because it contained a garved door 
jamb representing a prince with crown and peculiar head-dress; 
a sculptured lintel with a figure engaged in mysterious incanta- 
tion; also a shrine in which were square pillars and carved zapote 
beams, and doorways upon the four sides; and the serpent balus- 

(2.) These descriptions of Mr. J. L. Stephens were for a long 
time relied upon as about the only authority; but M. Desire 
Charnay has made two visits to the same localities, one in 1858 
and the other in 1878, and has brought out some new points in 
connection with the ruins. He visited Mexico and examined the 
ruins at Tulan, and found the same general arrangement of apart- 
ments as Stephens had seen at Uxmal and Palenque. He also 
passed over the mountains, and reached the cities of the Mayas, 
and made the discovery of another city, to which he has given 
the name of Lorillard. He took photographs of the various 
buildings which were drawn by the artist Catherwood, and has 
furnished some interesting descriptions of them all. The result 
of his efforts confirms the impressions which were received from 
the engravings and descriptions in the work of Stephens. At 
Tulan he found a temple consisting of pillars in the shape of ser- 
pents, the heads of which formed the base and the tails the 
capital. Similar pillars supported the fagade of the building El 
Castillo, at Chichen-Itza, having serpents' heads at the base and 
feather ornaments at the sides, thus showing that the same sym- 
bols were employed by the two races. He speaks of the analogies 
between the sculptures of the two regions. He calls it all Toltec. 
The protruding tongue in the tablet of the temple of the sun, 
Casa No. i, reminds one of the protruding tongue in the calendar 
stone of Mexico. His photographs of the tablet of cross No. 3 
at Palenque bring out the fact that there were hidden away among 
the foliage which forms the arms of the cross, certain masks 
which suggest that there was a personal element as well as the 
""nature powers" embodied in this shrine. The face near the 
top of the cross, a necklace and medallion below the face, rem.ind 
us of the adornments of the kings and chiefs. These photo- 
graphs bring out more than ever the magnificence in the ornaments 
and decorations on the facades of the different palaces, those on 
the palace at Kabah being very beautiful.* The fagade of the 

*At Ake was a palace with a court-yard and a picot in the center of the plaza, as at 
Uxmal; also a small oval pyramid, a tennis court, a ruined palace and a great gallery of 
columns. At Itzamal a massive face at the base of a pyramid, at Chichen-Itza a perpen- 
dicular pyramid, the base occupied by eight large idols, a fortress or pyramid, two serpents 
forming a winding stair-case. 




Dwarf's House or Nunnery is very imposing. The panoramic 
view of all the buildings at Uxmal is especially interesting, as it 
enables us to form a correct estimate of the character of the 
architecture of the Mayas. In the city called Lorillard there 
was a magnificent building called the "first temple," another 
called the "second temple," another called the "palace." In 
these are sculptured lintels made from wood and stone which 
represent persons in royal attire, one of them represents a sacrifice 
to Cuculkan or a penitential scene.* 

(3.) The descriptions and engravings furnished by these 
travelers enable us to recognize the differences between 
different classes of monuments, for we 
find in all of the cities, altars devoted 
to sacrifice, pyramids and palaces which 
were devoted to royalty, shrines devoted 
to worship, all having ornaments and 
symbols which were correlated to the 
design or the purpose of the buildings 
themselves. This is especially appar- 
ent in the shrines which were devoted to 
specific divinities, for the sculptured fig- 
ures on some of the temples, whether 
outside upon the facades, or upon the 
piers and doorways, or upon the tablets 
in the inner chamber, are all significant 
of the worship of one divinity, the one 
to whom the temple was devoted. Such 
shrines are to be distinguished from the 
palaces. The palaces were full of rooms, 
which were occupied by the royal family, 
and between the rooms were courts and 
corridors and apartments of state, and 
all the conveniences which became the 
home of royalty. There were occasionally 
shrines in the palace, in private apart- 
ments, in which altars and tablets were erected. Surrounding 
the palaces were large enclosures, some of which were used for 
gardens. In the gardens, at the foot ot the pyramids, there were 
statues decorated with the adornments of royalty, and on the 
sides of the pyramids gigantic heads, some of them fifteen feet 
high, as high as the columns themselves. These, however, only 
confirm the impression already formed, namely, that the statues 
within the palaces were the portraits of deified kings, that the 
figures on the tablets in the shrines represented the nature divin- 
ities dressed in the garb of priests and kings; but the "Culture 
Heroes" are to be found in the isolated shrines or upon the pyr- 
amids which contained statues upon their summits. 

Fig. 1,— Gigantic Head, 

*See Ancient Cities. 


This shows that there were capitals, in which kings had their 
seats of empire, but there were also sacred cities devoted to 
particular gods. Charnay thinks that Palenque was not a royal 
palace, but a priestly habitation, a magnificent convent occupied 
by the clergy, and, like Teotihuacan, Izumal and Cozumal, a city 
resorted to as a place of pilgrimage. He thinks that there were 
capitals in which were kingly mansions, and that the history of 
the people can be found in the reliefs. Tezcuco of New Mexico 
may have been such a capital among the Nahuas; Copan, Chichen- 
Itza, Quirigua, Uxmal and Kabah may have been the capitals 
of the Mayas. Whether there were cities or shrines which 
were sacred to the culture heroes of the Mayas, as Cholula was 
among the Toltecs, remains a question. The national divinities, 
such as Quetzatlcoatl, Huitzilipochtli, ruled over particular cities 
among the Nahuas, and it may be these were the national divini- 
ties of the Mayas. The palace at Tezcuco was a collection of 
buildings composed of royal residences, public offices, courts of 
law. It extends from east to west 1234 yards, and from north to 
south 987 yards. There were in it two large plazas or courts, 
one of which served as a public market. A palace devoted to 
Quetzatlcoatl had halls facing the four cardinal points. The 
hall of gold faced to the east, the hall of emeralds faced to the 
south, the hall ot silver, decorated with sea shells, faced to the 
north, and the hall decorated with feather-work faced to the west. 
This was in the northern province, but the ruins which have 
been found in the southern provinces of Yucatan and Guatemala 
are more magnificent than those of Mexico. This forces upon 
us the conviction that there were three classes of beings that 
were worshiped — nature divinities, culture heroes and deified 

(4) The task is to distinguish the divinities from kings. The 
clue is furnished to us by the study of the symbols, especially 
when compared with the ornaments, the first being found on the 
shrines, the last on the palaces. We have spoken of the "por- 
trait statues." Let us consider their location and peculiarities. 
The most of them are at Copan. Here the ornaments on the 
statues resemble those on the door-posts and fagades ot the pal- 
aces, the same or similar ornaments being repeated. On the 
contrary, at Palenque there are priestly figures on the tablets m 
the shrines which resemble those found on the piers and facades. 
As a rule, the ornaments and symbols on the shrines differ from 
those on the palaces, and the symbols on the palaces differ from 
those on the altars, those on the altars differ from those on the 
friezes and cornices of the faqades. This shows that the sym- 
bolism of the Mayas was correlated to the design, and that the 
distinction between the royal personages and the nature divini- 
ties prevailed in all the cities. 

(5 ) This brings us to the main question, Does the study of the